Life Lately…

Hanging out on the left bank in Paris, France

A bulk update on various things going on in my life right now…

Cooking: I haven’t had any success with a new recipes lately. Last weekend, I was convinced to find the perfect recipe for tomato sauce which I can eventually make in big batches and freeze for lasagna, pasta, pizza, etc. I referred to several recipes online and used them as an inspiration to combine the ingredients I had on hand. Apparently, I took too many liberties and what was meant to be tomatolicous turned out to be red but not tasting of tomatoes at all. It was rather dull and just really bad. It was too chunky, and I added a little too much sugar. The end result was not at all appetizing. I felt a little guilty for chucking the whole thing down the drain, but really, I was never going to eat this stuff. It would have just sat around till it went bad or was forgotten in the back of the refrigerator somewhere. Note to self: Use just one recipe and stick to it without alterations. Giada DeLorentz (sp?) from Food Network seems like a good reference point.

Baking: I love baking. Unlike cooking, I am not intimidated by whatever the recipe calls for. My efforts pay-off almost always. Last Sunday after the tomato sauce disaster, I tried the Dark Chocolate Mousse recipe from Cooks Illustrated Online. What a success!!! It turned out better than PERFECT. I even had these cute little jam jars from the craft store which I used to store the mousse. They are perfect for transporting and look awfully cute. This is definitely something I will be making again very soon.

I also tried a recipe for Raisin Soda Bread from Joyofbaking.com. It is a very simple quick bread that doesn’t require any yeast or rising time. Instead, baking soda and buttermilk work their magic and give the bread it’s airiness and crustiness. Baking is much more precise than cooking. When a recipe calls for a specific measurement or specific ingredients, it’s crucial to stick with it. I know this and therefore, I should have known better when I used yogurt and water mixer instead of buttermilk, and subsisted the all purpose flour completely for white whole wheat flour. The bread turned out okay. I will be consuming it for sure. It has slight sweetness to it because of the raisins, but not too sweet to be considered a sweet bread. It’s a perfect balance. I also need to practice my kneading. I think the lack of space in my kitchen really restricts me from spreading out my stuff and using the proper kneading technique to ensure a smooth ball of dough that hasn’t been over mixed. It’s just a fine balance. I think this is a good bread to freeze too. I have recently acquired Beard on Bread by James Beard. The copyright date says 1975 (i think), so it’s a pretty old book, but man is it amazing. Beard discusses every minute detail and gives perfect directions. My goal is to try every recipe he has. I think I’ll start this once I move in my new apartment mid August.
Great Find: I went to the thrift store to find some old-school baking molds and such. I got very lucky and found some amazing pans and molds for next to nothing! I’ll be revisiting in a month or so to see what else they got!

Running: My most recent purchase to improve my running is the Nike+ipod kit. It’s my cheaper(and less precise) substitute for the Garmin 405 which has been on my wish list for a while. But at almost $400, I felt a little uncomfortable buying the Garmin. And in all honesty, I wouldn’t have used it to its full potential. It can do too many things, some of which I really don’t care to know. so back to Nike+ipod. It’s amazing. I love it. It does the job, and does it well. I noticed that right out the box, it has the tendency to over-estimate distance and pace. However, once it is calibrated on a treadmill or a trail where distance is properly marked, it is rather accurate. I can push the center button at anytime to know my distance, pace, and time….all the while listening to my favorite podcast. It also has this feature called the Powersong. My power song is Amsterdam by Guster. It has the perfect beat to make me pick up my pace, or to help me get over a hill. Basically the Powersong can be played at a touch of the button without searching for it. So while I’m listening to my Car Talk or Splendid Table podcast from last Saturday and I see a hill approaching my course, I push the button to get some much-needed inspirational music from Guster. By the way, I do not own the shoes that are meant to go with the kit. I simply use Velcro to attach the Chip to my Asics and it works just fine. I’ve also noticed that because of it, I am running outdoors more than indoors. I use the treadmill only if I need to squeeze in a run while at the office. In fact, I even woke up early this week to run 2.5 miles before I left for work. Now that’s something! Hopefully I’ll wake up early to do at least 4 miles during the morning runs. It’s such a beautiful time of the day and a perfect start to deal with the craziness of work.
Travel: I am headed to NJ this weekend to partay!! My cousin and her husband just bought a gorgeously big house and have graciously invited all the cousins to come and party with them. From what I hear, there is a hot tub and a pool. I couldn’t refuse. The festivities start on Friday at the Jersey Shore where we’ll be getting some sun at the beach. I’ll squeeze in a run too. I love running at the beach. OK, wrong section to talk about running. But let me just also mention that I never travel without my running shoes. A. and I even managed to squeeze in a run in Munich. I was hung over from the night before, but I had promised her I’d run, and run I did. It was awesome. We came back to the hostel sweaty and out of breath; we got some crazy looks from the fellow travelers.
After NJ, I am headed to Chicago to see D. I am not sure if I am more excited to see D. or Chicago! hehe. I love Chicago. It’s my favorite city (no, I haven’t been there during the winters). D. is living with his cousin (whom I love) in the city; no suburbs crap! From what I hear, the condo is right next to the lake and within walking distance to the beach. I’ll be in heaven.
Reading: I’ve been doing a lot of reading this summer. I’ve already read Climb, Julie and Julia, Life and times of the Thunderbolt Kid, Walk in the woods, Five Quarters of the orange, Stiff Upper Lip Jeeves (old; British; funny). I am in the process of reading three books namely, Short history of nearly everything, Gentlemen of the Road, and one more that I can’t think of the name…not a famous writer. I’ve enjoyed all the books except Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon. I am having a very difficult time getting in the flow of this book. I’ve read his previous books and loved them all, but this one is rather different in my opinion. I had to check-out the book twice from the library. I returned it the first time after reading just 10 pages. I felt guilty for doing so, so I rechecked it during my next trip.
I have also acquired some nice cooking books and novels from the used book store. It’s a lovely place and I restrict myself to spending no more than 30 minutes there. If I spent anymore, I would truly buy too many books for which I have no space and time and money. I plan on reading a couple of other books before summer ends and classes begin! Any good recommendations?

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Chika Gujarathi is a freelance writer and a mother of three from Raleigh, NC. She writes for national and local publications about lifestyle, travel, books, and of course, motherhood! Her most current project involves illustrating and publishing a children’s Hindi book. When not adventuring with her family in the minivan, you can find her riding the streets of Raleigh on her beloved bike Linus.

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