Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Summer Eating and Summer Reading

Our most exciting edible find of summer 2017 was not discovered in the produce section or even the Farmers' Market. It was foraged from rather damp and dank spaces in our own wooded neighborhood.

It was a very rainy summer here in North East Georgia, and conditions were just right for thousands of golden chanterelle mushrooms to pop up in wooded clearings. Lila and V foraged chantarelles by the armful on their morning walks, filling the stroller basket with their bounty. Back home, V cleaned and cooked them very simply in butter and garlic, seasoned with salt and pepper. We ate them straight out of the pan, on toast with brie, and tossed with pasta. Chanterelles taste earthy and woodsy and very gourmet- a thrilling treat straight from nature.

Other memorable summer treats-

Very Southern tomato sandwiches. This is a slab of focaccia spread with mayo, fresh tomato slices and a shower of salt and pepper.

Watermelon limeade- cubes of watermelon, lime juice and some crushed ice blended together for a few seconds in the Vitamix. It tastes exactly like fresh sugarcane juice if you can believe it.

Fresh figs shared by a coworker from her backyard fig tree, and briny boiled peanuts.

Our drink of the season: whole fruit margaritas made in the Vitamix. This might be my favorite cocktail of all time- cheers!

* * *

The Mother Daughter Love Fun Club

Over summer, I realized with some dismay that between never-ending household tasks and tending to baby, I couldn't carve out enough one-on-one time with Lila on a daily basis. She's getting to the age where she would enjoy a parent reading "big kid" chapter books to her so I suggested that we start a mother daughter book club and snuggle and read a few chapters every day. Lila loved the idea but wanted to call it the Mother Daughter Love Fun Club so we could do more than just read- we could include art, board games and other activities in our super exclusive, invitation-only club.

I've really enjoyed the chapter books we've read so far. Some were sweet and touching with plenty of opportunities to talk about the ups and downs of life, such as The Chalk Box Kid by Clyde Robert Bulla and My Happy Life by Rose Lagercrantz. Others are just plain hilarious, such as Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo and Jasper John Dooley: Star of the Week by Caroline Adderson. Andrew Lost: In the Kitchen by J C Greenburg has enough grossness to satisfy a giggling 5 year old. All of these books are new to me; as a kid, I could only dream of libraries stuffed with books. What fun it is to discover these books with my little girl.

Another summer favorite in the South-
saucer sized Magnolia flowers with their heady scent

* * *

The bedtime reading habit

Without really planning to, I have slipped into the habit of reading for 20-30 minutes before bed every night. It is one of the simple joys in life to be propped up in bed reading by the warm glow of a bedside lamp, often with Dunkie the pup resting against me. It also provides a much needed screen-free buffer before bedtime. I read from my stack of library books, or a recent issue of The New Yorker or another less weighty magazine plucked from the informal magazine exchange at the public library.

I describe the blissful start to the night's rest; however, things rapidly go downhill around the midnight mark and most of our nights could not be described as blissful. The culprit is the baby boy who wakes up complaining several times at night- the number of night wakings and the timing of night wakings all vary from night to night, keeping us stumbling around on our bleary toes. So it is only fitting that on the top of my stack is Precious Little Sleep: The Complete Baby Sleep Guide for Modern Parents by Alexis Dubief (2017- I literally bought it the day it was published). I do like the book- it is comprehensive and full of practical advice, written with intelligence and humor, however, whether it magically solves our sleep issues, only time will tell.

When I wrote this post, someone suggested that I read the book Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne (2009). I did and I enjoyed reading it. The author acknowledges that "Simplification is for those of us whose lives are characterized less by need than by want" and offers plenty of advice on simplifying various aspects of a child's life: decluttering their rooms and rotating toys so kids can engage in deep play, maintaining daily and weekly rhythms and routines to keep a child feeling secure, limiting scheduled activities and giving kids plenty of down time, and shielding children from the relentless anxieties and pressures of the adult world. 

My favorite fiction summer reading: Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz (2017). Anthony Horowitz is the brilliant screenwriter for two of my favorite TV mysteries- Foyle's War and Midsomer Murders. Magpie Murders is a delicious read- two mysteries in one- and I highly recommend it for all fans of the cozy mystery genre. 

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane (2004) is a well-crafted psychological thriller and a rollercoaster of a read- very enjoyable indeed.

I also read a memoir, Yes Please by Amy Poehler (2014), enjoyed her take on the Hollywood biz, loved reading about her childhood and how she got started in comedy, and the essay on motherhood was beautiful. Amy Poehler is so fearless and talented and at least once a day I mimic her SNL weekend update sketch and say, "Really???"

Every summer, NPR comes out with a "best 100 books" list focusing on a different genre every year. This year, it was 100 best comics and graphic novels. I am a fairly new but very enthusiastic reader of graphic novels and plan to read most of these in the coming months. So far, I've read Sweet Tooth: Out of the Deep Woods by Jeff Lemire (2010)- a fascinating, disturbing post-apocalyptic tale. 

What have you been reading? 


  1. How lucky you were able to forage for mushrooms. Looks like you also did your homework to make sure you identified them correctly.

    I recently read "Anything is Possible" by Elizabeth Strout and "Big Little Lies" by Liane Moriarty. Both were good, quick reads. I felt like I wanted something more out of the first one but, overall I would still recommend both books.

    I'm definitely going to try the watermelon drink and the margaritas.

    I need to read Simplicity Parenting. Love the idea of the Mother Daughter Love Fun Club. What a great name to an exclusive club. I'm sure Lila will always have fond memories of this time spent together. My daughter is going to 3rd grade this year and is a voracious reader and much too impatient to wait for me to read her a chapter. So enjoy this time with Lila.

    Do you listen to podcasts? Just listened to a good one this morning that I think you might like. It's the Deep Work episode on the Hidden Brain podcast.

    Podcasts are what make my commute enjoyable. Let me know if you need recommendations.


    1. Anu- Yes, we did our homework before picking wild mushrooms. Didn't want to make any deadly mistakes! Fortunately chantarelles are very distinctive and also we knew they were abundant and in season where we live so there was a high degree of confidence. I picked up Big Little Lies but never got around to reading it before it was due back! Will try again :) How fun that your daughter is reading all by herself!

      I LOVE podcasts but haven't found a regular time to listen to them. Commute is too short (not complaining) and usually when I go on walks, the kids are with me. But I love Hidden brain and will listen to this one for sure!!

  2. So nice to see your summary of summer! I am definitely trying out the watermelon limeade recipe!
    Tight now I am reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and Six wives of Henry Tudor by Allison Weir (my Tudor passion rekindled by a recent trip to London!). Wnjoy the rest of your summer! And I would love to see a post to school lunches (if you pack any for Lila).

    1. Sangeetha- You'll love the watermelon limeade- we made yet another batch yesterday. Please tell me how Big Magic is. I didn't like Eat Pray Love AT ALL but maybe this is different? I don't pack lunch for Lila- she has been eating school lunch every day so far.

  3. Perfect blogpost to read as I wonder about using the huge watermelon I have! The mushrooms look delicious. Love that little Lila will have these foraging trips in her treasure trove of childhood memories. Nupur, love your posts, not just for the food but for the wonderful books and the vivid descriptions that you share. You're an inspiration!

    1. Pal- we too had huge watermelons that we didn't want to waste- the juice takes care of it ;) Thanks for your sweet note!!

  4. How lovely it is to catch up on all the goings-on at your place, Nupur! To this day I have a few of the most treasured books from my kids' library :)

    Chanterelles look amazing -- we get morels here but they're not the same. And since you asked -- the late-night read here is Growing up in a Korean Kitchen by Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall; lots of recipes, lots of history, and not too many photos (keeps the midnight cravings down ;))

    Still waiting for that tomato-mayo sandwich -- cool summer means late ripening here.

    All the best!

    1. Hi Linda! Good luck with the tomatoes- I hope you get a bumper harvest! The book sounds very interesting- food stories are the perfect cozy late night read. Have a great week!

  5. Not a mushroom fan, but I can imagine foraging your own would be a dream for mushroom lovers :) The club sounds like so much fun! Occasionally me and my 4 year old will go on an "adventure", which is basically taking a trip around the massive basement of our apartment. He is super crazy about cars (sigh!) and has a ball checking out the different types of cars parked in the basement.
    Currently reading margaret atwood's handmaid's tale and loving it.

    1. Neha- I find it so touching that 4 year olds can make adventures out of everyday situations like wandering around looking at parked cars! Love it :) Handmaid's Tale is very much on my reading list too.

  6. The mother daughter fun love club sounds exciting! What a precious may to make memories. Love the fancy name too!
    If you need recommendations for books- may i recommend Its a blog written by my 10 yr old niece- a voracious reader, writing about the books she's read and liked. Its a work in progress.


Thanks for leaving a comment- I try to respond to every single one.