"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: London

“joie de vivre!” . . .

DSC_0497Recently, I’ve been amusing myself by keeping up with the engagement news of Amal Alamuddin and George Clooney. Notice I put her name first. Whether or not the public is fascinated by the fact that he seems gaga in love and wants to marry her is one thing. I, on the other hand, am entranced by how attractive and together she looks in the photos of her dressed up to go back to work in London. Reportedly, she had her hair and nails done at the John Frieda salon there. Clooney, reportedly, is joining her in London to look for a place to live “so that she can continue her international law career.”

That’s nice, but with the strong human rights interest they share politically, the sky’s the limit on what they might do together: a new Brad-Angelina humanitarian dynamic duo. In my mind, he’s perhaps as lucky if not luckier than she is that they are together, the bling ring, not withstanding. And it sounds like they will be getting married sooner rather than later. Fun to stay tuned.

So, why am I writing about this celebrity fluff? Because I think their example is not only one of charm because they are both so good looking, but because they also both look like they’re in love with each other in a comfortable, familiar way that many invisible couples also share.

Maybe some would react with envy but not me. Instead, I feel a sense of “joie de vivre” (joy in living) from the depiction of their lives. That is, there’s no reason we shouldn’t “go for it” too in the context of our own lives. And there’s no reason we should hold back on how much fun and love we can experience in our lives as much as they seem to be doing in theirs. For me, whatever passive resistance I may have had in the past about waiting or not doing something because of (fill in the blanks,) there’s no valid reason to keep holding back if we decide to open up ourselves to new possibilities.

We’ve been talking about taking a driving trip to Nova Scotia for over a year and seeing the rugged coast of the Bay of Fundy. Even with my laid-up leg and slow recuperation not being able to drive yet, there’s no real reason not to start planning a trip. It also feels like it would be a good idea for me to make the trek on my crutches down and up the stairs (3 floors) more often, in order for me to be outdoors more and to see the dogwood blossoms up close and personal with my own eyes rather than through photos that G. took yesterday.

So, it isn’t just celebrities who can be joyful about being in love or finding “the one,” the rest of us have our own capacity for being happy too. Whether it’s buying some frozen fruit popsicles (pineapple? coconut?)to eat while watching the finale of “The Good Wife” on TV tonight, or finally hanging some hooks into the door of a kitchen cabinet for potholders and strainers so they are easier to reach, especially from a wheelchair, G. and I can make improvements and look forward to many other things in our own lives. It just takes figuring out what they are and then going for it.

It’s a quiet Sunday morning and the sheets are laundered, hanging out on the clothesline on a beautiful sunny day. What more could I ask for?



pocketful of rye . . .

. . . rye bread dough risingA friend of mine, R., lives in a tiny row house near Regent’s Park in the Marylebone district of London. The door is painted bright yellow and there is a veritable garden on the front pavement and across the way, lined with trees in pots, flowers and other vegetation. Once, when I visited her, she served a small loaf of rye bread which had a tight crumb and toasted up beautifully with a crusty exterior and chewy insides. It was just right, spread with thin slices of pate, or sweet butter and homemade jam. Fruitlessly, I have looked for a loaf that resembles this memory a long time ago, and had given up finding such a tasty loaf of dark bread.
rye bread beg
Recently, my daughter, M., mentioned that she baked a spelt/rye bread from a recipe a friend gave to her awhile ago. Nigel Slater, a cookery maven from England also has a recipe for spelt/rye bread, this one with a little grated parmesan cheese added during the second kneading of the dough. Because the heat wave that we’ve had dispersed into drizzly rain and fog, it’s much cooler now and I thought I would weigh in and try my hand at making one of these loaves of bread. Nigel Slater’s recipe is given for two loaves and the ingredients are listed in metric specifications. I like to make one loaf at a time so I cut the recipe in half. Here are my approximate measurements converted from his:

Nigel Slater’s rye loaf: In a warmed bowl, combine dry ingredients:
1 1/2 cups rye flour; 1 1/2 cups wholemeal spelt flour; 1/3 cup white flour; 1 tablespoon (packet) of dry yeast; 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt. Whisk these dry ingredients together to combine.

Heat scant 1 1/2 cups of water to warm but not hot; stir in 1 1/2 tablespoons of honey.
Pour water/honey into dry mixture and stir to combine. (Mine was a little dry when I added 1 1/4 cups of water so I added in a bit more, that’s why I increased the measurement from 1 1/4 to a scant 1 1/2 cups)

Reserve 1/8 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese to knead into the dough after it rises the first time.

Pull and stretch dough while kneading for a good 4-5 minutes. Lightly oil a clean bowl and let the dough rise until it is doubled, covered with a cloth or plastic wrap. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a lightly floured board and knead again, briefly, for just a minute or two, adding parmesan as you go. I patted the dough into a rectangle, sprinkled parmesan cheese with a spoon, folded it over into thirds, then over again; repeated twice.

Butter a bread pan and flour it, shake out the excess flour. Shape the kneaded dough into a loaf and place in the pan, cover and set aside for a half hour or so until it has risen again.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Yes, I was surprised at this too but that’s the proper conversion from “220C, gasmark 8.”

Bake for 25-30 minutes until crisp on top. Remove from the oven, leave for 10 minutes, then lift out and leave the loaf to cool before slicing. To keep, wrap in foil or kitchen film and set aside. It will also freeze well.

. . .fresh out of the oven!

. . .fresh out of the oven!

So that’s tonight’s supper, along with a couple of croquettes of sweet potato, quinoa and cranberries that I picked up at Whole Foods yesterday. A small, crispy green salad would be good alongside.

after dinner postscript: next time, I would stretch, pull and knead the dough differently to incorporate more air into the dough during the first kneading step. Might also add a little more water too!