Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Conversation I've Been Avoiding

To lighten the mood and make me smile: Elsa after she cut her back at the cabin last summer

Last fall I wrote about the difficult conversation(s) we need to have about our long term plans for our cabin. At the time, I was able to successfully convince my husband that this conversation needed to wait until after our busy fall, after the holidays, after we switched jobs and got settled. Well, that time is now, and honestly, I still don’t want to have the conversation. I see a lot of value in having it and making a plan and committing one way or the other, but I just can’t bring myself to deal with this.

It’s going to be hard and messy, and it may lead to a big change. I tend to avoid change, but this could be a good one. One that frees us up to do other stuff and accomplish big life goals.

My gut feeling is that we should keep the cabin, but I don’t know if I feel that way because I really do want to commit to keeping it or because I don’t want to change my plans and take a risk and close the door on this path that we worked to flippin’ hard to open for ourselves.

As hard as it is going to be, I’m going to commit to starting the conversation.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Ice Ice Baby


Please bear with me as I write about more lessons from high elevation. 

I was having an off day on Saturday. Since I've been sick, I haven't been skiing much for the past two weeks ever since my breakthrough weekend, and I was a little worried that I'd lose the magic. I was also feeling tired and grumpy - not a great attitude for someone who gets to spend all weekend on top of a gorgeous mountain. Anyway, it was pretty icy, and on my first run I was having trouble making my turns and digging in and my boot was pinching my leg and it all felt super disappointing. I cursed the icy snow, and Andrew told me that was the great thing about skiing because even once you learn how to do it well there will always be different conditions to maneuver. At the time I was a little annoyed, but I'm thankful for his positive energy. On the next lift up, I told him that all this ice was shaking my confidence, and we decided that Ice Ice Baby would be our theme for the day. Andrew spent the rest of the day singing that for me on the lifts. That was a nice treat.

The snow softened up of course, and the weather was great, but I just wasn't feeling it all day. I felt like since I hadn't been practicing that I had digressed and would have to relearn what I was doing confidently three weeks earlier. That seems silly, but that's what I kept thinking.

We went back up on Sunday, and we had an awesome day. My boot problem was fixed and my attitude was better and I viewed the less than perfect conditions as a new challenge. I know I continued to improve this weekend, and by yesterday afternoon, I was already linking together more turns on the moguls than I had been three weeks earlier in the fresh snow.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Unsettled (and reason Number One Hundred and Twelve I'm Happy We Have Dogs)


We just found out that our next door neighbor was robbed this weekend, and the police are pretty sure that the burglars went through our backyard to get to hers. Presumably, the burglars tried our house before hers but were scared off by the dog girls. They stole her laptop and some jewelry, and she has a good attitude about it being just stuff, but they went through her ten year old daughter's bedroom too and she's really upset and scared. I knew that other people in the neighborhood, which is probably 250 houses, have been robbed in the past, but it is so close to home that it is unsettling.

I feel lucky that I've never had my house robbed (knock on wood...). Someone broke into our car back when we were living in Albuquerque and stole a bunch of stuff, but overall we've been lucky.

I remember once when I was about five or six my dad's car was broken into in our driveway. It was a Saturday morning, and we didn't realize it had happened until the neighbor showed up with a bunch of his credit cards that she had found in the alley. That was long enough ago, I guess, that people didn't want to steal credit cards, just cash.

I've heard stories (probably urban myths, but still...) about the police finding a map of the neighborhood with the houses where dogs lived marked. If I was a burglar, I wouldn't want to face Lola. She is fierce when she's protecting us, and she is very territorial.* I know she would go to bat for us. And of course, Elsa can bark up a storm, but I don't think she incites too much fear in would-be burglars. Like I needed another reason to be happy that we have dogs, but I gave the girls extra cookies tonight to thank them for their good work.

Have you ever been robbed? (Eeeesh, I hope not!) And, do you have any other good tips for scaring off burglars? 

My tips, which are thanks to my friend Jeremy who unfortunately knows from experience, are more geared toward being out of town rather than daily vigilance: timers on the lights and radio, locking all of the bikes together with a cable, hiding the laptops under dressers, and hiding extra sets of keys to the car that is left at home. I guess I do have one tip for daily life. We recently signed up for a safety deposit box at our bank because I didn't want to leave our wedding rings at home when we were in Nicaragua, and all of our important paperwork, extra checks, credit cards we don't use regularly, and family jewelry is safely stored there. It was only about $25 for the whole year so it seemed worth it to keep after we got back from the trip.

*One time we were fishing in the Jemez, enjoying a beautiful day all alone on the river, wondering why no one else was fishing, and why Lola wasn't swimming and scaring away all the fish, and then I needed to hike back to the car for something and we realized that Lola was barking ferociously at anyone who tried to walk down the trail - effectively giving us one of our best days of fishing! I guess she figured that it was our stream and our territory.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Coasting Into the Weekend

After a busy week (aren't they all?), I'm looking forward to lots of skiing and relaxing this weekend. (It's a pretty great weekend when your only plans are skiing and relaxing, huh?)

Anyway, here is a cool bike I saw around the interwebs this week, spotted first via Lloyd. Pretty soon our only weekend plans will be long bike rides and relaxing...

A bamboo bike grown from the ground up:

The bamboo structure of this bike is grown into a preformed mold. Article and more photos are here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Thai Tofu Wraps


This is a tasty and quick meal to whip up for weekday lunches or a quick dinner after work.


Thai Tofu Wraps

Ingredients for Salad
1 pack extra firm tofu, well drained, cut into small cubes
3 cups fresh bean sprouts, coarsely chopped
4 cups coleslaw mix, coarsely chopped
2 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts
6 whole wheat or veggie tortilla wraps

Ingredients for Peanut Sauce
1/4 cup room temperature peanut butter
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil

Using a steamer, steam tofu cubes on stove top for 5 to 7 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool. In a large bowl, combine coleslaw mix, bean sprouts, scallions and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together ingredients for dressing. Add tofu to salad mix. Stir in dressing a little at a time and toss to combine. Serve salad in wraps.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Grapefruit + Avocado Salad

I just can't get enough of this combo these days.

Grapefruit

+

Avocado 

=

Heaven!

Grapefruit Avocado Salad

Ingredients
1 grapefruit, peeled and cut into wedges; reserve 1 Tbs of juice
1 ripe avocado, cut into cubes
1 head of red leaf lettuce
1 Tbs olive oil
1/2 Tbs balsamic
1 Tsp minced shallot
Sea salt, pepper and ground mustard

Wash and dry lettuce; rip into smaller pieces. Whisk together oil, balsamic, about 1Tbs of grapefruit juice, and minced shallot in a salad bowl. Add a grind of your salt and pepper and a generous dash of ground mustard. Whisk to combine. (I never actually measure my vinaigrettes so these measurements are just guesses. At this point, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.) Add lettuce to bowl and toss and top with grapefruit and avocado. Couldn't be easier!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bye Bye Butterfly!

source

I did a big spring clean out of my closet in 2011 and donated and tossed a bunch of stuff, but there is still a lot that can go. I'm not a big fan of cleaning, but for some reason I was feeling anxious for spring cleaning this weekend. So I decided to do a mini-purge of my drawers and closet. I reduced my underwear collection by half, threw away old t-shirts, and filled a large donation bag with work clothes that I don't really like but have been continuing to wear because they are in good condition. It feels so good to unload extra stuff!

My goal is to minimize my wardrobe this year and weed out things I don't like, that are out of style or that don't fit properly so that I can start fresh next winter and invest in higher quality clothing that I really love.

Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Topper


I've had this recipe bookmarked for months, and I finally tried it this weekend. I don't know if I'll ever want to eat plain old tomato soup and grilled cheese again. This recipe brings all the glory of french onion soup gratinée to tomato soup. I adapted the recipe from Smitten Kitchen - mostly because I didn't reread it again after I bookmarked it back in October.


Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Topper
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 4

Ingredients
Soup
3 pounds Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 small/medium sized cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon (or more to taste) dried crushed red pepper
4 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 tablespoons grated raw onion
Salt and pepper

Grilled Cheese Topper
4 slices of rye bread, whole wheat sourdough or bread of your choice, toasted until hard
1 cup coarsely grated sharp white cheddar (or more to taste)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Wrap garlic cloves in a tight foil packet. Place tomatoes, cut side up, on large baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil. Add foil packet of garlic to tray. Roast until tomatoes are brown and tender (garlic will be very tender), about 1 hour. Cool slightly.

Meanwhile, heat broth over low heat in a dutch oven and add thyme and red pepper flakes.  Unwrap garlic packet and peel cloves. Transfer cloves, tomatoes and any accumulated juices to dutch oven and blend with an immersion blender until the soup is a chunky puree. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Stir grated onion into the warm soup. Remove from heat and adjust seasonings to taste.

Preheat broiler. Arrange four ovenproof soup bowls or crocks on a large baking sheet and fill with soup. Float toast slice(s) in each bowl and divide grated cheese generously over top. (If you’re using a wide bowl, you might find that you want more cheese to create a thick, broiled lid.) Place soups on tray under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes, until cheese on top is bubbling and brown at the edges. Serve immediately.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tartifête!

Join me for one of my favorite weekends of the year: Tartifête. On the third weekend of February, we eat Tartiflette, an après-ski dish from heaven the Savoie region of France. Tartiflette is a baked dish with potatoes, crème fraîche, lardons, and Reblochon cheese, and it is freakin’ awesome - so rich and decadent and very French.


My oldest friend Rosie and I invented this holiday several years ago when we were living in France, and you know, a dish this amazing really does deserve it’s very own holiday.

The first time I heard of tartiflette was on a bus on my way to go skiing in the Alps. When my friend Aimee realized that I had never tasted it, she gasped, grabbed my arm, looked me in the eyes and told me I was truly missing out on an amazing culinary experience. She described it as crack for gourmands. As it turned out, she didn’t particularly care about skiing and she had come on the trip for the food. And, she was right. It was every bit as tasty as she had led me to believe.

After that trip to the Alps, I’ve tried many tartiflettes. My favorite is at a tiny, little hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Montpellier, France called La Ferme. It may be far from the Alps, but La Ferme is so good that it is worth going to great lengths to dine there. One time, Rosie and I fasted all day to ensure we could clean our plates, and every time I am in France, I go to Montpellier to eat their tartiflette. La Ferme also has potatoes cooked in goose lard, a charming and lovely husband and wife team, and a cozy, intimate atmosphere. Eeee, I wish I could go this weekend, but a homemade tartiflette is pretty good too.

source

Tartiflette

2 lb waxy white potatoes (I recommend Yukon Golds)
¾ cup lardons or chopped bacon
1 small onion, thinly sliced
6 Tbsp crème fraîche
¾ to 1 pound of Reblochon cheese or equivalent amount of Port Salut (I’ve seen Reblochon at the Whole Foods in Santa Fe before, and if you live in a city, you should be able to find it no problem. I had the hardest time finding Reblochon last year, and I had to substitute Port Salut and Raclette. I did half and half, and the Port Salut has much more flavor if you need to substitute.)
1/3 cup dry white wine (from Savoie if possible)
salt and pepper

Clean the potatoes and boil the whole potatoes in a large pot of water until just tender but slightly undercooked, about 25 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, sauté the onions in butter until translucent. Fry the chopped bacon until cooked through; remove from pain and drain. Thinly slice the potatoes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 9x13 casserole dish. Evenly spread a layer of potatoes in the casserole dish, spread 1/3 of crème fraîche over the potatoes and layer on half the bacon and onions. Sprinkle each layer with a little salt and pepper. Add another layer of potatoes, 1/3 of the crème fraîche and the remaining bacon and onions. Top with the remaining potatoes, crème fraîche and pour the white wine evenly over the gratin. Note: feel free to be quite liberal with the crème fraîche.

Cut the wheel of Reblochon in half to make two thinner wheels of cheese. Place each wheel cut side down on top of the potato gratin so that the rind is visible. If you’re using the Port Salut, just cut it up into chunks and spread evenly over gratin. Cover as much of the gratin’s surface area with cheese as possible. Bake at 400 for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and browned on top.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Homemade Wind Generator on Little Corn Island

During our trip to Nicaragua in November we spent eight days on Little Corn Island. In addition to the plages sauvages, one of the things that drew us to the Corn Islands was the sense of wildness and isolation. We stayed on Little Corn Island, which is about a square mile with no roads, cars or big development. Before we went, we had the sense that it would be a little like being on the mesa (near Taos where we have our cabin) only with beaches. It did not disappoint!

We took a plane to Big Corn Island where we boarded a panga for Little Corn, and after arriving there, we walked for about 45 minutes through the dark and muddy jungle before we reached our cabin. When we woke up the next morning and checked it out in the sunlight, here is what we saw:









There is no grid on Little Corn so hotels are responsible for generating their own electricity. We stayed at a farm called Farm Peace and Love (cheesy hippie dippie name – another similarity with the mesa). The owner has rigged up this amazing wind generator to power the main house and the cabin we rented. Again, this could totally be in Taos!




Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Knitted Headwrap

The plus side of being sick and laying around all day?? I finished this little project I was making for my sister. She's a little picky so I hope she likes it. This headband is really quick and easy. The pattern is online here.

this is the best photography we could muster without actually getting off the couch

When we were visiting Andrew's parents last Thanksgiving, Andrew's dad gave me a tin of buttons from his mother's collection. She had kept the buttons off all of the family's outfits for years. When a shirt or jacket was worn out, she cut off the buttons first to add to the collection.


Here are some of my favorites:


It is a pretty big collection, and we went through them all and matched them up, and I got to pick out my favorites to bring home. Andrew's dad remembered a lot of the outfits that the buttons had come from, and it was fun to hear stories about Andrew's grandmother.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Heart Day


I think Valentines isn't just for lovers; it's for all of our loves. Happy heart day everyone!

Monday, February 13, 2012

A (Forcibly) Balanced Weekend

source

We spent three evenings and our lunch hours last week preparing a shipment for our side job (jeez, that sounds like we're doing something illicit, but we're just doing some work for Andrew's dad), and we were busy, busy, busy! Sometimes I think we take on too much, and it caught up with us this weekend. We spent half of our weekend hosting friends in Santa Fe, skiing, catching up, cooking tasty food and drinking wine and the other half at home, sick, laying around on the couch, napping, watching tv, knitting, and too sick to leave the house. I guess the universe is telling us that if we don't do a better job of finding balance in our lives, it will be forced on us.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Perfectability of Dogs


When I was in graduate school I took acting classes for fun, and my favorite monologue was from Jane Martin’s wonderful play Talking With. If this play is ever showing in your area, go see it. It is a series of monologues from different women, and it is very moving and at parts funny and touching. My monologue was called Clear Glass Marbles and was about a woman whose mother is dying from cancer. The doctor has told the mother she has three months to live. The mother asks the daughter to go out and buy 90 marbles. Each day the mother holds on to one of the marbles and rolls it around in her hands and as she falls asleep at night, she lets go of the marble. The daughter hears it roll across the floor, and her mother tells her she is learning to let go. The last thing the mother asks for before she passes away is a picture from the front hall of a Labrador retriever she had owned when she was first married. The mother tells her that when you’re young you believe in the perfectability of dogs. That line got me every time, and I had to choke back tears when I delivered it.

We’ve had Lola since she was a puppy, and she is starting to show some signs of aging – white muzzle, quicker to tire out, and hip pain when we take her on too long of a walk. Somehow during an off-leash walk she has partially torn her ACL in her left rear knee. This means no exercising and no playing with other dogs for a while. The vet said at least two weeks, but we’ve passed that and she’s still not able to put any weight on it. It kills me to see my girl laying around all day depressed. Since she can’t go for walks, we spent Saturday afternoon after skiing driving her around town for some stimulation. I drove her around the plaza a couple of times and by our old house and up Canyon Road to museum hill to see the sights. She seemed to enjoy her little outing.


She’s a smart and sensitive one, this dog girl, and I know she’s feeling down. I think she understands that she has to heal, but being cooped up for weeks is driving her (and us) nuts. She’s started doing things she hasn’t done since she was a puppy like getting into the trash and trying to eat food off the counters. I had taken for granted her good behavior over the last 5+ years, and I had forgotten what it is like to live with a mischievous dog girl.

As Lola is going through this healing process, I can’t stop thinking about that monologue and the perfectability of dogs. Honestly, I hope it’s not something I will stop believing in as I get older.

Since our wedding, when I feel like we officially became a family, I’ve been savoring this time in our lives. I know it won’t always be like this – young and healthy family of four. Some day we won’t have those girls with us, and I’m trying to consciously appreciate all of our moments together now because I know it will always be a special time in our lives that we remember fondly when we’re older.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Braving The Cold One Knitted Ear Muff At A Time

While our truck is in the shop this week, Andrew has started commuting by bike again. Off he goes into the cold:

Good thing his loving wife made him a bike helmet ear muff to keep his ears nice and toasty!


These knit up pretty quickly, and the pattern is a free ravelry download. Here is the link.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Breakthrough Weekend

We had the best weekend. First, we woke up Friday morning and were so excited to see that winter is definitely prend-ing vigeur.


Everyone in the family was happy!
And then it kept snowing and by the time we got up to the ski basin on Saturday morning, they had already gotten 15 inches of new snow. It was glorious skiing with light, fluffy powder.



I had a major breakthrough this weekend. My practicing has paid off, and I was able to mentally get past my fear, and I've been skiing black mogul runs all weekend - even a little (tiny) bit in the thin trees. Unfortunately, this photo doesn't look very dramatic, but here I am in action.


We had another two inches last night, and we were able to get in some more skiing this morning before coming home to make tasty treats for the Super Bowl.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Stop Writing and Start Cuddling

I tried to do a little writing this weekend, and Elsa just wanted me to cuddle with her. Eeee! So sweet!!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

La Chandeleur=Crêpe Day


When I was an English teacher in France, I was so pleased to discover that every year on La Chandeleur the students of France make crêpes in their classrooms. As the great lover of holidays and traditions that I am, we make crêpes every year at our house too.

A la chandeleur, l'hiver se meurt ou prend vigeur.

They say that on the Chandeleur, winter either winds down or gains strength, and this year, I'm hoping it gears up. We have a winter storm forecasted, and there are a few flurries outside now. C'est bon signe!

And seeing as the sky is dark and cloudy this morning, it bodes well for a fun evening: 

Si le ciel n'est ni clair ni beau, nous aurons plus de vin que d'eau. (Bordelais)

Here is my recipe for basic crêpes. I prefer sweet crêpes and like to fill them with lemon curd or nutella.

Basic Crêpe Recipe
From Epicurious, 2005 (when apparently it was called Epicurous)

48 servings (I halved this last year and it was a good amount for 4 people for dessert crêpes)

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

Mix crêpes by hand. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Break the eggs into another bowl and mix until yolks and whites are blended. Make a hole in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in beaten eggs. Stir the flour mixture into the eggs little by little. The dough will be difficult to work and it may be necessary to add a little milk to incorporate all the flour. Add the liquid a spoonful at a time and mix it in thoroughly before adding more liquid. When the mixture becomes easy to work (when about half the liquid has been used) the remainder can be added in two portions. Add melted butter. Mix again, cover at set aside for at least an hour but not more than 6 hours at room temperature. If necessary, the batter can be cooked immediately, but the resting time allows the flour to absorb more liquids, makes the batter easier to handle, and gives the crêpes more flavor. Since flours vary in their ability to absorb liquid, if the batter seems too thick when you are ready to cook, a small amount of extra liquid can be added at this time. The consistency should be at least as thin as heavy cream.

Instructions for cooking are here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake

When I was home in Minneapolis last May, I went to an amazing dinner with my friends Rosie and Carolyn at Bar La Grassa. We drank champagne and feasted on gnocchi with cauliflower and orange and pasta negra with sea urchin and mussels, and when it came time to decide on dessert, I wanted to order the grapefruit olive oil cake. Rosie wisely advised that we could make excellent grapefruit olive oil cake at home any day, and we should pick something more exotic. I reluctantly agreed, trusting that Rosie does not mess around when it comes to making important decisions about food, and we ordered something else more exciting. The next day, she sent me this recipe, and it is true folks. Grapefruit olive oil cake at home is easy and delicious. That Rosie is a smart cookie!

I received grapefruit in my CSA veggie basket last week, and it was so fragrant that it just called out for something exciting and refreshing. I made this cake for a dinner party last weekend, and it was a hit. I love the tartness of the citrus and the moistness of the olive oil. The only thing I changed was to use the juice from the whole grapefruit instead of just 1/4 cup.



Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake


1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 kosher salt
1 large grapefruit, zest and 1/2 cup juice reserved
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (use a midrange priced version here, nothing too fancy)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

On a clean cutting board, combine the sugar and grapefruit zest in one pile. Using a bench scraper, work the zest into the sugar until completely combined. Transfer grapefruit sugar to a large bowl. Add the buttermilk and 1/4 cup of grapefruit juice to the bowl and whisk until combined. Add in the eggs and olive oil and whisk again until combined. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until all of the flour is mixed into the wet ingredients. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Do not over bake or the cake will become dry. Allow cake to cool for 5 minutes in the pan set on a wire rack. After 5 minutes, remove cake from pan and allow it to cool to room temperature on the wire rack. Slice and enjoy.

serves 8
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