small pockets of happiness

It’s been a little bit since I’ve visited here – please blame the end of the second semester of grad school. It was a really difficult one, capped by two majorly huge papers (I’m hoping that’s the last of bibliographies for a long, long time) and perhaps the most intense week of studying I’ve ever notched in my years of schooling. Leaving my final exam last Thursday felt like one giant exhale, and that combined with the weather FINALLY turning nice in Boston has solidified an almost constant smile on my face.

Things are good here: flowers are sprouting in every corner of the neighborhood (which I enjoy, despite my red-rimmed allergy-plagued eyes), my playlists are now trending to happier tunes rather than winter’s pensive background beats, the stack of pleasure reads on my windowsill is finally getting cracked, I refreshed my bedroom linens, and – most important of all – I’ve started an engaging, exciting, energizing new job.

I’m buying a lot of new summer dresses, testing a lot of recipes that embrace the richness of this late spring produce, and spending an inordinate amount of time on Apartment Therapy dreaming of high ceilings, multi-room apartments, and unlimited budgets. There’s power in visualization, right?

I’ve been finding new things to fall in love with, too. And while I’d like to get back to more regular posts (at this point, a sentence I should probably just copy/paste into the beginning of every post), I thought it might be nice to gather a brief round-up of the various worlds piquing my interest as the temperature finally rises above 45 degrees.

But first! A belated Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, who took me as her guest to a Nurse’s Week party and also taught me everything I knew about stylish dressing. Both outfits here are great, if I do say so myself.

 

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What I’m Loving Lately…

Cooking:

There is so, so much to cook in this season of excellent produce. On my to-do list includes rhubarb pie (my all-time favorite pie), Smitten Kitchen’s blueberry-lemon bars (a burst of sunshine in your mouth!), this bright, tangy snap pea-buttermilk salad from Bon Appetit and a burst tomato galette, because simplicity and ease is the name of the game when you’re dying to eat al fresco.

Two standouts I’ve made lately include:

This raspberry ricotta cake from Bon Appetit, which I pulled together quickly for a Mother’s Day celebration. The first time I made this cake, it was one of the first nice days of the year in D.C. last spring, and a group of us sat outside in our yard (having an apartment with a YARD, #tbt, sigh…), and we ate it all in one sitting. It is light and fluffy, delicious without being decadent, perfectly studded with the sweetness of the fruit. I finished with a dusting of powdered sugar, but it would also be perfection with a dollop of homemade whipped cream and a scattering of lemon zest. (Make this cake.)

The next is a bit heartier, much more stick-to-your-ribs, and is best served when you’re a little bit tired in the way that makes you laugh a little too much, paired with a rich red wine.

Half Baked Harvest never disappoints (I have made countless recipes from this site and the resulting cookbook, and have yet to dislike a single one), and this gnocchi Bolognese bake is no exception. If I was feeling particularly ambitious, I would have made my own gnocchi for this dish, but I was sleepy, so settled for tearing fresh basil across the top of the melted, perfect cheese. This dish is bound to become a dangerous staple in my rotation, necessitating many more runs in my future.

 

Reading:

As the school year drew to a close, I found myself with an influx of time on my hands to read for pleasure, as opposed to with a highlighter in hand, desperately trying to guess what portion of the 36-page research study would be on my final exam. It’s a lot better this way.

There are two books I’ve read lately that stick out as particularly powerful in the way that leaves you frequently pausing, taking a breath, and sitting quietly with the words you’ve read before moving onto the next page.

The first is When Breath Becomes Air, a stunning memoir from Paul Kalanithi, who was both a profoundly talented neurosurgeon and a profoundly talented writer. The book takes us through his personal and professional paths, before both are disrupted by his lung cancer diagnosis and suddenly, he is also teaching us how to live with grace in the face of looming mortality. The novel was haunting in its beauty, and I put it down convinced it should be required reading for all.

Another work I’ve picked up lately and thoroughly enjoyed is Places I Stopped On The Way Home by Meg Fee. It’s Fee’s debut novel, but you wouldn’t know it from the expert way she weaves language, threading words together so intricately that you want to close your eyes and let the sheer musicality of her prose wash over you.

Fee’s collection of essays follows her time living in New York City in her 20s, and without giving too much away, her writing captures the beauty and complexity and maddening nature of that time in your life. I found myself highlighting line after line, struck by how true it all rung.

I planned on delving into much more in this post (including fashion, outdoor spots in Boston I’m digging lately, and weekend trips I’m planning for the summer), but it’s running long. So I’ll leave off here, and resolve to publish the next post in a more timely fashion. Besides, it’s hard not to be in a good mood when it’s rose season and the Celtics are up 2-0 on LeBron in the playoffs.