Home-Grown Herbs and Pasta (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

I enjoyed a homemade beef, soybean and veggie pasta for lunch today. My dish also included a variety of snipped herbs that I’ve been growing, as well as artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, crushed tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, honey and abundant amounts of olive oil. The pasta is a whole wheat rigatoni; the tubes were perfect for holding all the sauce.

Part of my inspiration for this dish was Gaby’s sandwich on the latest Bon Appetit video. She included lemon juice and vinegar, but I realized the tomatoes I added brought the acidic brightness the dish needed. I also added capers which I feel often take any dish I’m making to another level of sophistication.

Soybeans are an unusual inclusion in this type of dish, but I’d never cooked them before and wanted to see how they would taste. I actually loved having them in the dish, as their texture was almost like that of a cooked peanut (more snap than the mush of a typical bean) and they complimented the pasta without altering the flavor. I can tell I haven’t been getting enough protein lately so I’m trying to find ingredients that boost my intake.

All in all, this dish was hearty and I felt proud that something I grew actually made it onto my plate. I have been avoiding grocery stores and getting items delivered, so I worry that my food is going to become boring or lack creativity because I can’t grab special ingredients the day of cooking, but I felt pleased with how it turned out. What’s your latest culinary creation and what inspired it?

Rising to Morning Dew (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

This week I’ve awoken and walked outside into springtime. There are dandelions running riot over my lawn and the air is warm and humid. A favorite moment in greeting each day has been to witness the dew clinging to the blades of grass as the day begins. It rained last night so everything was permeated with hydration and the promise of sunlight; together, they form live-giving and sustaining necessities. It’s been the type of memory that I want to imprint on my soul, a brief moment where the season feels encapsulated in a dewdrop. What sensory memory speaks “springtime” to your heart?

A Chew Toy A Day (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

Because I’m spending all my time at home, my dog has relaxed into a routine of playing with his toys more frequently in the afternoon than he previously did. He will chase a ball briefly and loves to “kill” certain toys. I purchased two new ones for him and they were delivered today. Before I could even remove the tags, he stole a small fox plush with a squeaker and ran off in delight. He has been playing with it for hours now and is semi-seriously guarding it when I get near. The joy and excitement it has brought him is making me smile from ear to ear and was well worth the money spent. I also bought him a small bull plush toy and he is loving gnawing on its ears. It was hard to judge the size and feel of each toy through a computer screen, so I’m pleasantly surprised at how well they have been received. If you have a pet, what is its favorite toy?

Perennial Blooms (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

Last year, back when going to a gardening center was a totally normal and not at all potentially life-threatening activity, I purchased and then planted five perennial flowers. I don’t know what type they are and three of them died within a few months. Two plants, the ones with white flowers, not only made it through the winter but are now bursting with new blooms. Their endurance and resurgence, coupled with the loss of the others, is a reminder that there is a seasonality to our lives that is not fully predictable. I still can’t fully discern what lines the boundary of gratitude and grief, of loss and life, but I’m sitting with awareness of it today. What symbolizes this edge for you?

Snow in April (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

I chose to store all my winter coats away last weekend and, well, it appears my assessment of the arrival of spring was slightly premature. It has snowed not once but twice this week, which is unusual for where I live this time of year. There were a good few inches of snow, so it is sticking on the grass but is also melting quickly as the temperature is near freezing. The most enjoyable sensory experience I had as my dog and I walked around my yard was the fresh smell of green grass and snowflakes. Each breath was rejuvenating even if I’m craving a bit of sunshine and a bike ride. What part of nature did you enjoy today?

Enjoying Self-Depreciating Humor (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

My emotions have been rough the last few days; there is a point of anxiety I sometimes reach where I have to take some time for self-care before plunging back into action, otherwise, I will make rash decisions without thinking them through. Television and movies have been a traditional escape for me, but I find I cannot handle anything too serious right now. Because of this, a new delight has been watching episodes of the show “Nailed It!” on Netflix. I cannot remember the last time I laughed so hard.

My favorite moment each episode is the split screen between the dessert masterpiece and the ubiquitously failed attempt the home cook has produced. I like people who can laugh at themselves, and most of the contestants are good sports. The host slips in observant narration that moves beyond the farce at times and keeps me entertained. What’s your latest TV binge?

Biking and Birding (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

Shelter-in-place has led my pup and I to discovered a local pond teeming with birds! I’ve been biking to it with him nearly every day. This morning there was a wide variety of birds which I greatly enjoyed.

  1. Canadian geese: There is a nesting pair right beside the pond. One of the pair sits on their nest every time I’ve gone past, while the other goose stands guard, facing the path down which I ride my bike and looking like it is contemplating attacking my dog and I every time we ride by. One day, it was sticking its tongue out, which I believe is meant as an aggressive gesture. I’ve told myself it knows who I am now as it doesn’t seem to give me much mind.
  2. Mallard ducks: There are multiple pairs of ducks in the pond; I love watching them take flight and paddle around. I haven’t seen any nesting yet.
  3. Egrets: Today I felt very blessed to witness a pair of white egrets taking a brief pause in the pond before flying on. I live near lots of protected areas so they aren’t the rarest sight, but they are not something one can find every day. They scared me as they took off across the road next to the pond as they flew very low near the vehicles.
  4. Red-winged blackbird: These are not my favorite bird as they can be quite aggressive. In the past, I’ve had them swoop near my head much closer than any other bird where I live. They sit on the top of stalks and reeds and have a loud call. The one I saw today seemed less attentive than they normally are and didn’t seem to notice my presence.

I am really grateful to be able to have found an area I can visit in a five or ten minute bike ride that holds such an abundance of nature. I noticed two small trees had been felled beside the pond and was upset that a person had caused damage to a place that is fast become special to me, but I then saw the circular chew marks and realized a beaver must also be making the pond its home! I hope I continue to make regular trips to the pond even after shelter-in-place is lifted, as watching the plants and animals change over the seasons seems like a worthwhile enterprise to me.

Taking Stock (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

I’m sorting, storing and organizing more than ever as I try to make my house a fortified source of provisions, rather than relying on grocery stores and a “just-in-time” supply chain that is showing strain. I took my preparations one step further and decided to create an catalog of the items I have, along with their cost, frequency of use and potential sources. I’ve always been slightly confused by the process of inventory in stores and am only now realizing how much different my daily life might be if I outsourced some of the obtaining of goods to subscription services and reliable resources, rather than needing to “run to the store” multiple times a week.

I’ve been shopping online for at least a decade and a half, but have used online stores to browse items or to find products I might not be able to source locally. Now I see an entirely new potential for streamlining how I allocate my funds as I track my usage over time. I fear that the environmental impact of getting everything delivered is likely higher than obtaining goods from stores, but I also then consider that the meat I ordered was shipped directly from the farmer with dry ice, rather than burning electricity on its way to, from and in a grocery store freezer. Increasing my awareness of how products make their way to me has been an interest of mine for a few years, now it is more vital than ever as I would not only put myself and others in danger by shopping in person, but would also take away resources from those who might have only in-person purchases as an option. How much attention do you pay to where the items you use come from, or how they get to you? How has the supply chain in your area been holding up? How might the concept of inventory apply to your inner world?

Springtime Flowers (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

It is a beautiful day outside where I live and the arrival of spring is upon us. Each spring, I am welcomed back into the season of growth and expansion by daffodils blooming in my yard. I love that they require no effort or attention and yet return again and again to brighten my spirits. They serve as a superb reminder that not all growth requires conscious effort. What is blooming in your life today?

A Pup in a Basket (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

After finishing my work this morning, which went well but felt chaotic, I needed to stretch my legs. I went outside with my dog at apparently the same moment everyone else in the neighborhood decided to do the same thing, which results in him barking left and right as there was nowhere we tried to walk that didn’t have another pup present. It was not relaxing!

I came home and regrouped. I decided to put him in the basket of my bicycle and go for a short ride. I’ve purchased a trailer for him but am not convinced I can attach it to my bike without breaking the entire wheel system; luckily for me, he only weighs 10 pounds and fits easily into my basket. We biked past another dog and he ignored it! It felt so good to have the warmth of the sun hitting my skin and the cool breeze blowing on me as I navigated the streets in my subdivision. I came home feeling refreshed and my dog has been napping ever since!