Monday, October 31, 2011

Notice!!!

I have big news. News that makes me so happy I can barely stand it. I gave notice at my job today. Eeeee!!

I’ve been feeling hopeless in my search for a new job, but perseverance has paid off. I got my first choice new job, and it is going to be awesome. The people are genuinely nice and sincere (one of them is even a fellow Gopher), and the job itself is going to be challenging and interesting and meaningful. It has all felt so fleeting, like maybe I’m just imagining it, but when I turned in my notice today and started the paperwork, I feel a huge weight off my shoulders and a huge swelling of my heart. I can’t stop smiling!

Cheers to a good change!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Fall Winds Blew My List of Things To Do Away

Well, not totally, but this weekend, at least, they did.

One of the things I love most about spending time at the mesa is the chance to totally unplug and unwind. This is not something I do often. I always have several to do lists going, and when I’m at home I have a hard time shutting my brain off. I want to go, go, go. I like to get things done, and I like being productive. So, having a place where I don’t do much is necessary for my sanity.

It starts with the drive up there. Once we get past Espanola and descend into Velarde and enter the canyon with its steep walls and the Rio Grande flowing next to the road, my heart rate drops. After about forty-five minutes in the canyon, we cross the river and ascend up to the canyon rim. And when we turn off of the rim road toward Two Peaks, I feel like a different person.


No rules to follow, no people to see, no email to check and no tv to watch. It’s a perfect place for cooking, reading, knitting, writing and napping. This is the only place where I feel like I can totally let go and not worry about what I’m not doing.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

An Autumn Evening, and You, and Paradise


A Love Poem
by Garrison Keillor

An autumn evening, and you, and paradise,
So lovely and so full of grace,
Above your head, the universe has hung its lights,
And I reach out my hand to touch your face.

I believe in impulse, in all that is green,
Believe in the foolish vision that comes true,
Believe that all that is essential is unseen,
And for this lifetime I believe in you.

All of the lovers and the love they made:
Nothing that was between them was a mistake.
All that is done for love's sake,
Is not wasted and will never fade.

All who have loved will be forever young
and walk in grandeur on an autumn night
along the avenue.
They live in every song that is sung
and every painting of pure light
and every Pas De Deux.

O love that shines from every star,
Love reflected in the silver moon;
It is not here, but it's not far.
Not yet, but it will be here soon.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner: Appetizers

Thanksgiving Apéritifs.  Sorry for the crappy photo, but I love these glasses.  I got them from my grandma's house after she died.  We didn't have wine glasses at the cabin yet so we had to make due with these.
For Thanksgiving appetizers, I like dishes that are easy to prepare and that can be made ahead of time. These are three of my favorites that are always crowd pleasers. I guess my crowds really LOVE cheese…

I like to serve Prosecco with pomegranate juice and seeds as the apéritif of choice to accompany my appetizers. The pretty red seeds dance around in your glass, and it is fun and festive.


Herbed Cheese Log with Nuts
This recipe is from a 1970s Sunset Magazine appetizer hors d’oeuvres cookbook that I found at the thrift store. There is a whole section on nut-studded appetizer cheeses! This is the poor man’s version of Boursin (and better in my opinion).

Beat together until blended 1 small package (3 oz) cream cheese (at room temperature), 2 large cloves garlic (minced), 1 teaspoon fine herbs (or ¼ tsp each of crumbled thyme and oregano leaves and 1/8 teaspoon each of rubbed sage, crumbled marjoram leaves, dry rosemary, and dry basil) and ¼ teaspoon salt. Wrap with clear plastic wrap, shape into a log and chill; then unwrap and cover with toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds. Serve with radishes, green pepper strips, zucchini slices, and crackers.

It's super time consuming to stick in all of those nuts so in practice, mine looks a little more bare.

Bacon Wrapped Figs Stuffed with Goat Cheese
Who doesn’t love bacon and goat cheese?? This recipe is courtesy of Rosie, my oldest friend. She brought them to my bridal shower a few years ago, and they were a big hit.  This isn’t an exacting recipe so here’s the general idea:

Dried Figs
Goat Cheese
High quality, thick cut bacon

Slice the figs open lengthwise and stuff with about a half teaspoon of goat cheese. Press the figs shut. Set aside. Using a knife or kitchen scissor, cut the strips of bacon in half. Cook over low heat until they are about ¾ of the way cooked. They should still be pliable. Wrap each stuffed fig with a strip of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Place the wrapped figs on a rack on a rimmed baking sheet. The rimmed baking sheet will catch the grease that runs off while baking. Bake for about 10 minutes at 300 degrees or until bacon is finished cooking and the figs are warmed through.

Lemon-Pesto Goat Cheese Dip with Crudités
This dip is light and fresh and creamy. Use homemade pesto or good quality store bought and adjust lemon juice and zest according to tastes. Serve with fresh veggies and toasted baguette slices and/or crackers. (After looking up the link on epicurious, I see that this has received some mixed reviews, but I’ve always loved it and have had nothing but rave reviews when I serve it. I guess some people may not like goat cheese and/or lemon as much as I do.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Feast 2005

November is right around the corner, and that means Thanksgiving!

I never liked Thanksgiving growing up. We had to drive out of town to family’s house, and I had to sit at a kids table, and football was always on the tv. I didn’t care much for the food either. It was fine and all, but I didn’t understand what everyone else was making such a big deal about. Dried out turkey, potatoes from a box and cranberry from a can…no thanks!

The summer before my oldest friend and I left to spend a year in France teaching English, she knew she was really going to miss Thanksgiving dinner with her family. Her mom decided that we needed a proper Thanksgiving dinner for the year so she made us one in August. About half way through dinner, my mom and I looked at each other and said, This is why people love Thanksgiving so much! It was perfection. Nice tender and moist turkey and so many tasty veggie sides (made with real ingredients!). And her pumpkin pie – wowzer is that a doosie!

Ever since that year, I love Thanksgiving. We have some classics that we make every year – Andrew’s family’s sweet potatoes and Rosie’s mom’s pumpkin pie – but there are so many sides and salads to try that I usually make some new recipes every year.

Since Thanksgiving meal planning has already started at our house, I thought I’d share some of my favorite recipes over the next few weeks. I know Thanksgiving is still a month away, but I like to start with plenty of time so I can plan out the menu and make adjustments. I end up with epic grocery lists and trips all around town to get everything, but it’s worth it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Toe Joes

Sounds appetizing, yes? Andrew affectionately refers to the Tofu Sloppy Joes I make with this name. It grosses me out because it reminds me of toe jam…eeew, but it’s also kind of fun to say!

Anyway, now you’re probably thinking how much you’d like to make Toe Joes yourself. Yes, of course.

The recipe is from the Rebar Modern Food cookbook, which I learned about from Anna last year. Rebar is a vegetarian resto in Victoria B.C. I wanted to start cooking more vegetarian dishes, and I wasn’t really sure where to start. Anna gave it such an amazing review that I ordered it, and it has been an awesome cookbook. It’s not the kind of cookbook that I often use during the week. It’s better suited for a leisurely weekend afternoon or evening in the kitchen. The recipes are more involved, focusing on whole ingredients and making things from scratch. It’s definitely worth the extra effort, and we’ve loved everything I’ve made from this cookbook. Plus, isn’t the cover darling?


These sloppy joes are sweet and tangy and have a good bite to them. Much better than those lunchroom sloppy joes from grade school.


Sensitive New Age Sloppy Joes
From Rebar Modern Food cookbook

Ingredients

1 block firm tofu, pressed
3 T vegetable oil, divided
1 yellow onion, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp salt
3 jalapeno peppers, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ancho chile powder
1/2 tsp ground allspice
2 cans pinto beans (19 oz each) or 3 c cooked
1 c reserved bean liquid
3 T molasses
2 tsp chipotle puree (make by pureeing small can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce) ( I buy a can and puree it with my immersion blender and then store in a mason jar in the freezer. It thaws really quickly so you can use what you need and then pop it back in the freezer.)
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 (5.5 oz) can tomato paste
4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 T chopped oregano
8 whole wheat Kaiser buns

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain water from pressed tofu and crumble coarsely. Toss with 1 T oil and a pinch of salt. Spread on small parchment-lined baking tray and bake until firm and light golden brown, about 15 min.

Heat 2 T oil in wide-bottomed pot. Saute onion with 1 tsp salt until translucent. Add garlic, jalapenos, red pepper, cumin, chile powder and allspice. Saute for 5 min. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cover partially and simmer for 30 min. Add the tofu and heat through.

To serve, heat Kaiser buns in a warm oven. Split and generously ladle the mixture over the bottom half of the bun. Replace the top and serve, making sure that each serving is sufficiently sloppy!

Leftovers are good served over brown rice, as they suggest in the book, or they freeze well too.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dahlias from my Sweet Husband

Andrew surprised me at work today with dahlias.


They're the same flowers I had in my wedding bouquet. 


The gorgeous bouquet that my best friend and her awesome husband made for me.


Eeeeee!  Being the incredibly nostalgic person I am, I loved them!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

LPI, The Poor Man's Indiana Jones


When I was in graduate school, I took a class on cultural landscapes – the result of human interaction with the natural and designed environment. We studied the vernacular landscapes of New Mexico’s urban and rural areas, and our professor’s favorite teaching method was walking around observing and looking for clues and discussing theories about how and why a place developed. We studied things like boundaries, circulation systems, patterns of using space, and groupings of buildings. It was the most fun class I’ve ever taken.

For my final project, I studied a WPA park near my house. I diligently walked every foot of that park lifting up bushes, looking for old plaques and stamps on the concrete, documenting old walls, studying the curb cuts in the sidewalks, the materials, the vegetation, the surrounding neighborhood and architectural styles. I photographed everything and then started researching. It was definitely research suited for my personality – cast your net as wide as possible looking at everything you can possibly find – photographs, oral histories, Sanborn Insurance maps, newspaper clippings, business directories, paintings and artwork, novels and memoirs and academic literature – and then edit it down and weave it together to tell the story of a place. My professor liked my project so much that he said I am now officially a Landscape Private Investigator (or LPI as we like to call it at our house).

We spent last weekend at the ranch where we got married and it always provides for lots of opportunities for our LPI skills (Andrew is actually quite skilled as an LPI as well).


We explored old ruins, followed crumbling fence lines (rock walls), visited abandoned cemeteries and churches, and climbed one of the mesas to visit an old shrine. After studying an old map, we think we even found the old fence line marking the original property line from 1860.


At one point as we were scrambling atop the cap rock of one of the mesas looking for old, crumbling Stations of the Cross that lead to the shrine hidden in the side of the mesa, Andrew exclaimed that LPI-ing is like the poor man's Indiana Jones.

I wish being an LPI was my full time job!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Terrific, Torrid New Mexico


I love New Mexico, but it has been an acquired tasted, which is one of the many reasons I love it. The journey to loving New Mexico has been a learning experience. It has been challenging and fun and scary and so rewarding.

I reluctantly moved here seven years ago for graduate school and planned on being in and out in two years and on my merry way back to Minneapolis. The truth is, I not only never intended to love New Mexico, I was pretty set on not even liking it. So, it’s kind of crazy to think back on my state of mind seven years ago and compare that to my life here now.

When I moved here, I don’t think I had ever been on a dirt road (at least not one that wasn’t graded), and I certainly had never been in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, Andrew brought me to all sorts of places that I would have never gone to on my own –mountain tops and deserted desert roads and chacoan outlier communities and national forests and the great rivers of the southwest. As I’ve learned about and visited these places and developed a deep love for being outdoors and in nature, I’ve learned a lot about myself.

One of the themes we included in our wedding ceremony is knowing yourself through knowing a place. We chose this passage from On the Loose, a book written by two brothers and their journey to find insight and understanding of themselves through the natural world. I think it perfectly explains how I feel about New Mexico and the life I’ve made here.

“One of the best paying professions is getting ahold of pieces of country in your mind, learning their smell and their moods, sorting out the pieces of a view, deciding what grows there and there and why, how many steps that hill will take, where this creek winds and where it meets the other one below, what elevation timberline is now, whether you can walk this reef at low tide or have to climb around, which contour lines on a map mean better cliffs or mountains. This is the best kind of ownership, and the most permanent.

It feels good to say “I know the Sierra” or “I know Point Reyes.” But of course you don’t – what you know better is yourself, and Point Reyes and the Sierra have helped.”
-Terry and Renny Russell, On the Loose

Friday, October 14, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thursday Date Nights

In an effort to make the weekends feel a little longer, we’ve started doing something special on Thursday nights to unwind from the week. This makes it a little easier for us to mentally turn off thoughts of work on Friday night and just enjoy the weekend. It’s also a welcome treat because we usually spend work nights running errands (we try to adhere to a strict no errands on the weekends policy at our house).

Sometimes we go out to our favorite happy hour and then walk around the plaza or down our favorite street admiring the fancy houses. Often, though, we stay in and cook an extra special and decadent meal, have a bottle of wine, watch the sunset and stay up late and just hang out.

Last Thursday night we stayed in and had a nice little vegetarian feast.

Roasted Carrot Raviolis, Beet and Apple Salad, and Roasted Cauliflower.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cables and Bits


I made this dog shrug for Elsa, and as you can see it is way too small. As if a dog shrug wasn’t ridiculous enough, poor Elsa could only fit one of her legs into my dog shrug. She looks pretty silly.

I sent the shrug to my brother who has a small rat terrier, but I just couldn’t resist getting a few shots of Elsa with it because it took me a long time to make.


If you’re thinking of trying this pattern, check comments on ravelry or email me and I can share my adjustments because the pattern has several mistakes (including the gauge as you probably guessed).

Monday, October 10, 2011

Two Years

Wow, two years already!
We are quietly celebrating at the ranch where we were married, following forgotten fence-lines along the hills behind the pond, spending time alone in what feels like the middle of nowhere, and appreciating how extremely lucky we are to be so happy and loved.


Boof, Long Life, Happy Living!!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Solar Lola

Life can sometimes be tough for a black dog in New Mexico, but on these cool Santa Fe mornings, being a solar panel feels pretty good.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Easy Peasy Tomatillo Salsa

This salsa recipe couldn't be easier, and it is super tasty.


Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

1 pound tomatillos, husked removed and rinsed
2 jalapeno peppers
1 onion, cut into 4 wedges
5 cloves garlic, skin on
½ cup fresh cilantro
1 lime
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sea salt

Roast tomatillos, jalapenos, onion wedges and garlic for 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove from oven and let cool. Depending on how hot you like your salsa, at this point you can slice open the jalapenos and remove seeds and veins for a milder version. Peel garlic and onion and place all vegetables in a food processor. Pulse 2-3 times and add cumin, cilantro, sea salt and juice from the lime. Pulse again until well combined but still chunky.

I have lots of tomatillo plants this year – turns out they spread like crazy – so I’ll be making more batches of this to freeze.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

An Amazing Salad

Molasses-roasted fig and arugula salad with pears and goat cheese.


Holy moley, this salad is uh-may-zing! I used Lily’s recipe and figs and pears from our CSA. Go make this now! You’ll want to check out her gorgeous photos if nothing else.

Community Garden


In addition to our SFG raised beds at the house, we also have a community garden plot at the park down the street. While the SFG is orderly, the community garden is kind of free for all. The first year we had the community garden plot we succeeded in planting a fairly tidy garden that was organized according to our chart on mutually beneficial plants. I even followed the seed packet instructions for spacing. We harvested a fair amount of food last year, but our fellow gardeners who had ignored the seed pack instructions and planted twice or three times as many plants in the space advised had waaaay more vegetables. So this year we followed suit and totally ignored spacing instructions and planted tons of plants in our 15’x10’ plot.  We are so pleased with everything we have growing - tomatoes, pumpkins, corn, quinoa, amaranth, three kinds peppers, tomatillos, eggplants, beans, cucumbers, rhubarb, and zinnias, cosmos and marigolds!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I've Got Friends in Low Places*

My Favorite Friends in Low Places**

October is Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month – a cause near to my heart.***

I grew up with dogs from a breeder that my parents bought, and they were wonderful, loyal companions that I loved so much, but I have since seen the light. Andrew grew up with shelter dogs and cats so when he wanted to adopt Lola we went to the Humane Society. I had never been to a shelter before, and it broke my heart. There were several older dogs whose owners had surrendered them after being deployed to Iraq, lots of mama dogs with litters of puppies, and so many sweet, healthy and unwanted dogs. After that visit, I was committed to adopting rather than buying.


I’ve never known more loyal and grateful dogs than Lola and Elsa. The morning after I adopted Elsa, I opened the door to her kennel. She slowly walked out, stretched, and when I said good morning girl!, she looked up at me, in what I interpreted as surprise, and started jumping up and down on her back legs licking my face. I could tell that she was so excited that I was still there.

If you’re thinking of getting a dog or cat, please adopt rather than buy. You’ll be saving the life of the animal you adopt and the life of another stray because you’ll be freeing up a space at the shelter. I read on the Humane Society website that between three and four million dogs and cats are euthanized each year because too many people are surrendering their pets and too few people adopt from shelters.


*where the kisses drown and the fur chases my blues away… Andrew and I think this would be a great marketing campaign for the Humane Society. Kinda cheesy but I think it’s pretty cute.

**When Andrew spent a summer working in Arizona a few years ago, he spent hours driving around the national forests to do field work and the only radio stations that had reception in the remote areas were country stations. So once in a while he’ll listen to country music on Pandora, and we’ve discovered that line dancing around the kitchen is super fun. We don’t actually know how to line dance, but we improvise, and this song is my favorite!

***Note to the reader(s) who want to get their very own dog and now have their own house and everything, this would be a great month to do it!!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Published Author!

When I was in graduate school, I was asked to co-author a chapter in a book on the plazas of New Mexico. The book has been in the works for awhile, and my copy has finally arrived!


Plazas of New Mexico edited by Chris Wilson and Stefanos Polyzoides, contemporary photos by Miguel Gandert.

I wrote the first draft of our chapter while I was alone and snowed in on the mesa. It was lovely – just me and the dog girls and days filled with cutting wood, writing and reading (oh, how I miss graduate school!).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

To Do October


I love October. It’s one of my favorite months – the aspens are turning, the days are sunny and crisp, the nights are cool and good for cuddling, and it’s time to start making plans for thanksgiving (what we’ll eat that is). It’s also a month full of memories and nostalgia and reflection. Andrew and I started dating in mid-October seven years ago, and we got married on our five year anniversary of dating so we get to celebrate two anniversaries!

Here are my goals for October:

Nica trip:
Get serious and start making hotel and plane reservations. This will probably take most of our energy this month.

House:
□ Bring rest of the gravel to the neighbor’s house.
□ Start preparing raised beds for winter.
□ Clean out our plot at the community garden.

Fun:
□ Celebrate our anniversary!
□ Go to the ranch.

Here’s how I did on my September goals:

Make Plans for the Nicaragua Trip – I’ve really dropped the ball on this one. We haven’t done much this month to prepare because it has been a stressful and busy month. We did make some leads on the dog sitting situation and have lined people up to stay at the house the whole time we’re gone. What a relief!

House
• Finish shoveling gravel out of the front yard – Mostly done. Our neighbor wants the rest of it so it will all be gone soon!
• Deal with the weed situation in the front yard – Uh, no. This is totally out of control.
• Finish sanding the front door – Yes! Thank you Andrew. He meticulously sanded the rest of the door by hand, stained and sealed it. It looks beautiful.
• Make a donation to the ReStore - Yes!

Fun
• Go to the cabin – Yes.
• Plan a fun trip for my parents’ visit in October – Yes.
• Play tennis at least one night per week – Yes, on the weekends we’re in town, we’ve started playing tennis on Friday nights after work.
• Attend the Greek Festival, which we haven’t been to since moving out of ABQ – We decided to skip it because we have a lot of stuff to do around the house before my parents arrive.
• Go camping at Santa Barbara Canyon – No, we decided to have another weekend in town to get stuff done around the house.

Other Stuff
• Make a clothing donation – Yes.
• Write to my host family from college - No. I will do this soon.
• Stay committed to my health and wellness goals – Yes.
• Haircut for Elsa – Yes.
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