Five Senses Friday

I was inspired by this idea on one of my favorite blogs, Pink of Perfection (and also on Domestic Foolery, Abby Try Again and lots of others).  I generally have a tough time remembering to "be present."  Whether I'm making mental to-do lists, walking down memory lane, or distracted with games on my iPhone, my mind is usually elsewhere while I go about my business.  I think this is a sweet and gentle way to practice being more connected to the moment, and to appreciate the details that make life beautiful. 

Savored moments from my week...

) smelling ( 
Freshly opened vanilla nut coffee, at 10:00 on a Friday night.  I never do this.

) hearing ( 
Three Days Grace cover of Wicked Game

) tasting ( 
Homemade fritelle - flat, panfried dough, kind of like pita with a hole in the middle. (How is this the first time my dad's ever made these for me??)

) feeling ( 
Thrilled and grateful that a small gesture brought a lot of joy to a special friend of mine. 

) seeing ( 
Some awesome pictures by an old friend, who I had no idea was a photographer.


Summer Kickoff

The start of summer always reminds me of carefree days and lazy afternoons.  Endless weekends spent at the beach with a cooler, a sheet, good friends, and maybe a guitar.  It didn't require a big, complicated plan or a lot of money, and it didn't really matter if it was Wednesday or Saturday; we were just living for fun and freedom.  Wouldn't it be nice if we could still look forward to summer break every year?  We work hard, we deserve it!  Maybe I'll suggest it on Obama's facebook.

Sometimes it's tricky to find opportunities to be spontaneous like that, as busy as we all are between work schedules, softball games, or just the daily obligations of life.   But if you're like us, and you're lucky enough to have neighbors who make great friends, it doesn't take much to turn a plain-old Saturday into a good-old, carefree summer day.  Instead of spending the day sitting in our respective houses "doing nothing," we decided we should throw a barbecue together at a nearby park.  (You knew food was coming, right?  When a bunch of Italians find themselves with nothing to do, they cook!  And usually enough for an army.)

It was as easy as it gets; we basically used what we were going to make for dinner anyway.  They had ribs and chicken in the fridge, and we had steaks.  She made a killer potato salad, and I made one of my favorite pastas from Martha's Everyday Food (the first ever issue, now falling apart and speckled with oil—the sign of a well-loved cookbook).  It's not really a pasta salad, but I think it's just as good served cool, and I never pass up the chance to make it.  Super easy.

I love it when things just come together like that.  It was an awesome way to spend an afternoon and a nice change of pace from the regular routine.  Crystal Light and vodka was the bomb-diggity, too.  No, really.  Amazingly good, in a reeally dangerous way.

Tomato and olive penne

Salt and pepper
1 pound penne or other short pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2/3 pound cherry tomatoes (2 cups), halved or quartered
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1.  In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the penne according to package instructions until al dente, about 13 minutes. Drain.

2.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, and cook, stirring, until just golden, about 1 minute. Add the cherry tomatoes, oregano, crushed red pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring, until tomato juices run, about 3 minutes.

3.  Add to penne, along with olives, parsley, and 1/4 cup parmesan and toss to combine. Serve with more cheese if desired.