July 30, 2014

Backyard Pickles


When the hubs and I first moved into our house, we were excited to do some digging and start a backyard garden. Last summer was a time of learning which plants thrived in the DC humidity, which were more delicate, and which we wanted to try out in the future. This summer, with more knowledge and savviness, we expanded our vegetable garden to a second bed and resumed the backyard experimentation.

Our cucumber plants have to be one of our biggest successes this summer. Every day, it seems as though a dozen new cucumbers are ready to be picked, and as we gather them and swat away mosquitos, we discover a dozen more hidden amongst the leaves. These little green cukes have gone into salads, gazpachos, and, now, pickling jars!

Last weekend, we chopped up a batch and divided them into various mason jars. This first batch was a vinegar-based brine, enhanced with pickling spices, salt, garlic, dill, a pinch of sugar, and serrano peppers, also from the garden. 



We have already opened up a jar, and I think that they turned out really well! When we repeat this recipe, we might decrease or nix the sugar, but overall, these are delicious spicy pickles. Our next batch will be a small round of salt-brine with backyard jalapeƱos, pickling spices, and garlic. We like our spice. :)

My mother has already requested a jar for Christmas, and since we have so many cucumbers to use, we will likely store a few jars to give as gifts over the next few months. It is very special to us to be able to grow these treasures in our backyard and share these treats with our friends and family. As if there weren't already a million reasons to love having a garden, the ability to share fresh (and pickled!) vegetables with those we love makes it even better.

Are there any other good cucumber recipes that we should try out? We would like to try a simple cucumber salad and would love other ideas!


July 28, 2014

Out East


It could have been the salty, damp air or the curling smoke of our campfire on the beach, but there was something about those precious summer days in Montauk that brought out a spirit of adventure and mischief. Each summer, my aunt would roll up in front of our house, her SUV packed with beach chairs, towels, and my two little cousins, and we would drive out east to Montauk, The End.

The little fishing town, just past the glamour and gloss of the Hamptons, was our special getaway, the very eastern tip of Long Island. Surfers would pad barefoot across the street, their boards tucked under their arms as they made their way to the waves, and every shop was filled to the ceilings with a rainbow of beach towels and sand pails. Locals, their faces lined by years in the sun, would peer out their salt-sprayed windows as the summer crowd filled their once-quiet hamlet and set up camp in simple beachside condos. It might not be Main Beach and multimillion-dollar mansions, but it had lobster and seashells, and that's all we needed.

There were afternoons running around the sand and cooling off in the ocean, my bathing suits permanently tinged with the scent of sunscreen. The evenings brought pizza pies, served by young Irish teenagers who spent their summers out East, and campfire s'mores-- the gooier, the better. Sometimes, in our wilder moments, we spooked ourselves with ghost stories and hushed tales of the time travel experiments at the abandoned military base out at Montauk Point. Those bunkers couldn't be completely sealed up, could they? Were there still secrets buried beneath the satellite tower?

When the years started to bring in boyfriends, and my bathing suits switched to bikinis, our magical days spent on Montauk slowed down and ultimately stopped, the adventures and giggles relegated to photo albums and pictures taped to the fridge. I think my mother and and aunt knew that the day would come. It couldn't last forever. But they were good days. Important days. The kind of days that shape a childhood. The kind of days that shape a life.



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July 27, 2014

Sunday Currently : 62

I have decided that when it comes to my weekends, I enjoy that delicate balance between going out/being social and having quiet moments at home. This weekend has had all of that, and it's been nice to wind down my time in DC in such a nice manner. After my half-day of work on Friday, I took an epic nap and watched some old episodes of Pretty Little Liars before going out to Right Proper Brewery in Shaw with two friends who we always have the best time with. It was a night filled with amazing cheeses, beers, laughs, and conversation-- easy, fun, and exactly what I wanted at the end of the week. Saturday afternoon and evening offered more fun times and laughter with work friends, and it was the perfect way to close out our final weekend together (one of my fellow interns is moving away next week).

Today started out with a sweaty run to Takoma Park for their farmers market, and while it didn't feel as invigorating as last week's run, I felt settled and at peace as we made our way around the baskets of fragrant peaches and plums, humming along to the guitarist who was playing "Puff the Magic Dragon" on the sidewalk. In case you were wondering, yes, Takoma Park is indeed a hippie paradise, and, yes, we love it. :)


currently

reading : About licensure requirements and other not-fun things. Being nearly done with graduate school is awesome...and filling out paperwork is not. 

writing : Lots of end-of-year evaluations and reports, as well as more moving-related lists. Again, so much paperwork!

listening :  To the AC blowing in the living room, which feels great after this morning's humid run. One of the cats is having a blast attacking the many cardboard boxes that are still stacked in the living room, so every now and again I hear a big thump as he flings himself into the pile.

thinking :  About how I can be more productive this week with packing and preparing for my move to Michigan. It will be an emotional week of farewells at work, and I want to feel present for that, but I also need to get ready for the future, and that means making more progress with my packing when I'm at home. 

smelling :   That lovely cardboard box scent...

wishing :  For some more DC magic over the next two weeks. My love for this city didn't dwindle when I was at the height of grad school stress, but I think I have felt more aware of it lately. Though I've lived here for six years, there are still more neighborhoods to explore, more restaurants to visit, and more nooks to discover.

hoping :    To cross another item or two off of my Project DC list before I move. I realize that I will have at least another four to five years in DC when I return since the hubs is just beginning his doctoral program, so there is no rush to see it all, but I still want to have a few last hurrahs before I leave in August.

wearing :   My sweaty running attire. No pretensions around these parts, folks! The cat who was attacking the boxes just a moment ago has now curled up between my feet, so I am "trapped" here with him for the time being. Darn. :)

loving :  The people in my life. They make the days sweeter and richer, and I feel so grateful for that.

wanting : To get back into the swing of writing for this blog. I have so many posts written in my mind, but I've been savoring my recent post-dissertation defense lull by doing other things, like dinners with friends and kitchen experiments. I don't want to cut those activities, but it would be nice to balance it out with the writing that I enjoy doing here. 

needing :  To pack! The hubs and I did a massive haul at the Container Store yesterday, and I'm actually feeling much more motivated now to organize my loose papers and bathroom items. What is it about organization items that makes me so excited?

feeling :   Nostalgic, motivated, excited, and sweaty. Not bad for a Sunday morning, right? :D

clicking :   On this recipe for cherry pie. I think that I will attempt to make it this week, which will be my first pie of the summer! It's hard to believe that I haven't done much baking this summer (ahem, gradschool), but I think this pie will be a fun kitchen project. 


siddathornton

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Last week on The Quixotic Chica:

July 20, 2014

Sunday Currently : 61

This morning is off to a wonderful start. Yesterday afternoon was spent in Arlington, celebrating my friend's upcoming move to Florida and her surprise engagement to her lovely boyfriend-- it was so much fun to oohh and ahhh over her gorgeous ring and see her and her now-fiance walk around with looks of elation on their faces. I woke up feeling super happy and recharged, and when the hubs suggested that instead of going to the gym, we run up to Takoma Park for their Sunday farmers market, I decided to go for it. Why not?

The hubs has been recovering from an ACL injury the past few weeks (thankfully, it was only a partial tear, so no surgery!), but he has been able to do some gentle biking as part of his recovery. He rode alongside me and offered a string of encouraging statements as I trotted up the hills of Eastern Avenue. To my surprise, the run was not nearly as grueling as I thought it would be. Even better, I actually had a lot of fun and loved the feel of using my muscles and getting into a good pace, and I felt like I was flying as we zipped back to DC on the downhills of our second leg. It wasn't about pushing myself to beat my usual pace--instead, it was about enjoying being in motion. It was awesome!



reading : A couple of magazines that I still have sprawled around the house. I haven't yet picked a new book, but maybe I will figure that out this week. It feels so good to be able to read for pleasure without feeling guilty for not working on my dissertation!

writing :  Lists of items that I am packing up to take with me to Ann Arbor, items that I will pick up from my in-laws in Detroit, items that I will need to purchase, items that I am waiting to be delivered to the house... As it turns out, moving involves a lot of planning!

listening :  To the usual quiet Sunday sounds around the house... The typing of my laptop, the cars passing by down the road, neighbors chit-chatting from their front lawns.

thinking :  About how good this morning's run felt.

smelling :   The lingering scent of my floral-scented conditioner in my wet hair.

wishing :    For more peace in the world. Recent international events have been breaking my heart, and as long as they keep happening, I will keep wishing for change and justice. 

hoping :   That I will eventually find a way to keep my heavy, thick hair contained during my runs! I had to readjust my ponytail during the first leg, but during the second leg, my rubber-tracked headband flew off my head just as my ponytail also gave out, and I had to trot back to pick it off the sidewalk. Then, moments later, my ponytail holder broke! Than goodness I had an extra around my wrist! Any suggestions?

wearing :   A clean pair of stretchy running pants and a DC United jersey. Comfy, comfy, comfy!

loving :   How my body is actually stronger than I give it credit for. Being able to tackle hills that have intimidated me for over a year, and actually enjoying the experience, is such a blessing. It feels amazing to recognize that my legs are strong and that my lungs are powerful.

wanting :   To continue the 30-day fitness challenge that the hubs and I just started. In addition to our running/biking, we are doing circuits of squats, planks, crunches, and push-ups. I'm looking forward to seeing if I feel noticeably stronger by the end.

needing :  To pack up my kitchen items, knick-knacks, and photos! I am dreading the day when I start packing up my closets.... Maybe I can just peruse the Container Store for ways to organize all of my bathroom products instead?

feeling :  Really happy. Happy about my life, happy to embark on a new adventure in Michigan, happy for my friends, happy about how the past few nights we've been able to sleep with the windows open...just happy. :)

clicking :  On a great running blog, Michigan Runner Girl, that I discovered while researching potential races to sign up for next year. I love how motivating it is, and I must admit that my push to run this past week has largely come from feeling inspired by Heather's journey. I enjoy reading about her race recaps and training schedules, and it has made me want to explore other running blogs, too. Let me know if you read any good ones!


siddathornton

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Last week on The Quixotic Chica:
Sunday Currently | Michigan Girl

July 17, 2014

Michigan Girl



As the reality of my completed dissertation defense sinks in a bit more and more, it's accompanied by the reality that the next step is actually going to happen. As it turns out, all of those postdoc applications, written while I tried to ignore the gnawing fear that I wouldn't finish my dissertation and thus wouldn't be able to go on postdoc in the fall, weren't for nothing. The travel, the interviews, the memorized case presentations, the Skype chats... it all seemed to drag on forever, without any clear end in sight. 

There were conversations between me and the hubs. Discussions about what next year would look like, where we would live, where he was applying to grad school and whether that matched up with my own applications. There was the acceptance that we were damn lucky to stay in DC together this past year.... and that next year might be a bit different.

It's really hard to make a decision about one area of your life when the rest of the parts are unknown or moving around. Knowing whether to accept an offer in Oregon when the hubs might be living in New York? Impossible. Knowing whether to hold out for a DC offer but risk that the hubs might be moving to Chicago? Also impossible. 

So I leapt. I had to. I leapt at a fantastic opportunity that in so many ways is my dream position. Except dreams stay in the realm of fantasy, and next year is definitely real. It is going to happen, despite all of those fears and worries about not finishing in time.

It will mean being apart from the hubs for a year, but next year I will be completing a postdoctoral fellowship in Michigan. I will make Ann Arbor my home for a year, and then I'll come back to DC to be with the hubs and officially start my career. It's exciting and wonderful and scary and amazing, and I am so ready for it! 

I am meant to have adventures. I am meant to be challenged so that I can thrive and grow and come back stronger than ever. 

Just you wait. Michigan, look out!!


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July 13, 2014

Sunday Currently : 60

I am so glad that I have had the weekend to relax at home after a wonderful, beautiful week at the beach up in New York. Our family vacation was amazing, but the act of traveling on the train for hours, first from the very tip of Long Island to get back into the city, then journeying onward to DC, is a bit tiring. I also had a bridal shower to attend in Delaware yesterday, so overall, the past couple of days have been very travel-heavy. It's nice to unwind in the quiet of my own home, slowly unpacking and getting back into the usual routine.

Today is about restocking the fridge and other essentials, but also about settling back in and feeling restored. It's about clipping my rose bush out front, watering the vegetable garden, and settling in for some cuddle time with the kitties while we watch the World cup final. Here's to a lovely Sunday!


Remembering beautiful ocean views out in Montauk, at the very end of Long Island

reading : Nothing at the moment, as I zipped through The Old Man and the Sea, Toxic (the latest Pretty Little Liars novel), and The Light Between Oceans in the past week. So far, post-dissertation life is awesome!! I might return to my 100 Best Novels list, though, and take another crack at All the King's Men or start The House of Mirth

writing :  Lists for groceries, household items I need to stock up on, and books I want to read. Perhaps I will tackle some of these today...

listening :  To the quiet of being alone in the house with the cats. They seem to have missed having a human companion, and when they aren't sprawled out, purring in sunny spots on the floor or kitchen table, they are tearing around the house, knocking over anything and everything. Right now it's one of the quieter moments...

thinking :  About the past week and how wonderful it was to relax, visit one of my favorite places from childhood, and just be with family. We would like to make this an annual tradition, and I think it will be wonderful. 

smelling :   Heat. Today is one of those muggy, humid DC summer days where everything just smells humid and hot. 

wishing :    For no long lines at the supermarket. I aways seem to pick the worst ones and end up standing in line for 20 minutes or longer!

hoping :    That returning to work tomorrow doesn't feel too terrible! I have a few things to catch up on, but I'm hoping that nothing feels too stressful. 

wearing :   Shorts and a DC United t-shirt to get into the soccer spirit!

loving :   How the beach is my happy place. There's something magical about the sand and the ocean waves that fills my heart in the best of ways. 

wanting :  To redesign the look of this blog, but I'm not quite sure whether I want to do it on my own. I would love to find somebody to redesign my blog space, but I definitely do not want to spend hundreds of dollars. If anybody has a recommendation, please let me know!

needing :    Some lunch soon, as well as some water. I don't think I drank enough water when we were at the beach last week, and now all I want is a big glass of ice water.

feeling :   Excited for the World Cup final! It has been so much fun to watch all of these matches and talk about them with friends, co-workers, and family, and I think we have all enjoyed having a shared experience with cheering on our teams and watching the matches together. 

clicking :  On a few tidbits and blog posts. I'm looking forward to being a bit more active on this blog and interacting more with the bloggers I follow, now that my dissertation-induced hiatus has ended. Time to catch up! 


siddathornton

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Last week on The Quixotic Chica:
Defended | Enough/Simplify

July 11, 2014

Enough/Simplify


Like all vices, it started out small and innocently. I followed a blogger on Twitter so that I could enter a giveaway. Then I did it again. And again. After a few months, I graduated to following new blogs-- maybe someone who was mentioned in a sponsor post, or someone who wrote one great post on some random topic that seemed So Very Important at the moment. 

I'm discovering great new people, I cheerfully thought to myself. This is great!

But then, as all vices do, it started to turn sour. That great new blogger? Yeah, she turned out to annoy the heck out of me. You know the kind-- the complainer, the one who finds something negative to write about in every single post, the one who declares every other day to be drama-free... only to then pepper her next post with passive-aggressive comments about the latest villain in her life. And that new person on Twitter? Her tweets were filled with random sponsor-fueled content that did not reflect anything relevant in my life, or maybe they were just the neutral kind of tweets that my eyes barely flickered over as I scrolled down the feed.

It got to the point where it felt like my online mind was becoming cluttered with people who I did not particularly enjoy and sometimes even suspected I strongly disliked. It was stressful, and it was making me unhappy. I shouldn't dread reading a blog that I willingly follow. Then I realized what should have been obvious from the beginning: I do not need to invite unpleasantness into my life. What's more, by decreasing my contact with people who do not contribute anything meaningful to my life, I will increase my contact with those who bring a smile to my face and make me feel at peace.

So I started to do just that. When I went on hiatus this spring, it was with the intention of focusing on what was most important: my academic career and the completion of my dissertation. What I didn't expect to happen was a more clearly-focused view on clearing out the unnecessary clutter that I had brought into my own life. With my renewed resolve to prioritize, not only did I create an effective work schedule for myself, I also started unfollowing people on Twitter and unfollowing blogs that either upset me, bored me, or simply did not resonate with me. And it was wonderful.

I don't write this to be catty or malicious or flippant. There is enough of that on the internet, and I do not want to contribute to that. I'm writing this because I reached the point of needing to simplify my life. I had had enough. For me, social media should be fun, not draining. Can we control everything in our lives that has the potential to be depleting? Absolutely not. But when we do have the ability to decrease those kinds of activities and situations, we should use our power and do just that. 

I'm sure that there will be moments when I fall into the trap again. But knowing how freeing it is to voluntarily fill my feeds only with content that inspires, motivates, challenges (but doesn't offend), and restores me, I hope that I will soon remember how essential it is to simplify.


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July 8, 2014

Defended


I had a longer post written out, ready to go. Then, I accidentally deleted it. Apparently being nearly done with a doctoral program in no way prevents me from doing silly things-- good to know that I'm still human, right?

Anyway, the point is that I am DONE! Last week, I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation and am now finished with the hard part of graduate school. I am still waiting to get the formatting of my paper approved (margins and spacing and all that jazz) by my college, and then the Dean has to sign off on it. I also have a couple more weeks left of my clinical internship, but that's it! It should be smooth sailing from here on out.

It's a weird feeling, as though I’ve been running this marathon for years and years, and while I knew that the finish line had to be coming up at some point, I also thought that maybe it was just a fantasy, a legend. And then it finally appeared on the horizon, and before I had a chance to fully process that I had made it, that I was going to finish, I had already crossed it and was on the other end. And now there is just this feeling of pride, yes, but also bewilderment and disbelief. Could it really be? Did it really happen?

I suspect that feeling will linger for a while longer. I keep correcting people when they call me “Doctor.” Partly because my degree will not officially be conferred until August, but also because there are still these small administrative steps to go through before all of my graduation requirements are officially completed. But maybe I just want to cling on to school for a little bit longer. Maybe I’m not ready to let go just yet.

So it goes. Here I am. Defended, but not yet graduated. It’s an odd place, but I think it is ultimately the place to be. For now.

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