Sunday, April 29, 2012

Planning for the Summer Garden

Only two weeks until our last frost date here in Santa Fe. Like usual, it has sneaked up on me. I still need to uncover the raised beds, prep the soil by adding some more compost, and make my garden plan. I should have already planted my lettuces, beets and radishes, but this is supposed to be fun so I'm not going to worry about it.

I did manage to plan ahead on my seed starts. Most people tell me that they don't have good luck with starting tomatoes, but I wanted to give it a try. I'm starting Sweet 100s, San Marzanos, a Rainbow blend of cherry tomatoes, Beefsteaks and Cherokee Purples. I only have 4 spaces in my SFG for climbing plants so I'm considering building another bed that is 8 feet long and 2 feet deep for more climbers. Buying all of the ingredients and mixing the soil is a lot of work plus we'll need to buy materials for another box. It should be easier this year now that we know what we're doing, but I'm not sure I want to invest the energy for another box. Do I really need 12 tomato plants??  Hmmm, I think I might. Last year I had five at the house and another dozen at the community garden.

I've also started two kinds of basil, two kinds of eggplant, jalapenos, and bell peppers.

Are you planning a garden for this summer? What are you most looking forward to? I can't wait to make beet raviolis, carrot cake and pesto. And of course lots of salads with homegrown lettuce - so much better than store bought.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A World of Rivers Flowing to the Sea

Water is flowing this week in the Santa Fe River, and it has changed the whole town. People are out and about, playing in the water, walking and biking on the River trail, and just enjoying this important part of our community. We are the first city in New Mexico to allocate water to a living River. We are using water that otherwise would have been used for our city to expand simply to support a living, healthy River. How wonderful and progressive is that? We've allocated a 1,000 acre feet to the River. Those of you who live in the Southwest know what a big deal this is. Without this allocation, the River would be dry right now as it is most of the year.

I've been thinking a lot about rivers lately and the ways they connect us to a larger whole - people, places, cultures, traditions, landscapes, ecosystems, wildlife, the list goes on... They truly are heritage corridors. Nowhere that I've lived before has water and the history of settlement and land uses been so central to my everyday life. At least I haven't been as aware of it any other place. When I think about the network - the world of Rivers - flowing together and to the sea it gives me goose bumps.

Humble beginnings of the Mississippi. Source
I grew up near the Mississippi River, and even though I haven't visited most of the places it flows through, I still feel a connection to those towns and cities and the people who live there. We are connected by the River, the water, the corridor, the network. One of my earliest childhood memories is visiting the headwaters of the Mississippi - staying at Douglas Lodge, eating wild rice soup, seeing beavers in Lake Itasca, and walking across the Mississippi headwaters.

A few years ago they made a movie of A Prairie Home Companion. I saw it in Portland with my friend Rosie. Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin sing a song called "My Minnesota Home" and they sing about their home on the Mississippi.

(Warning: if you're Minnesotan and not living in Minnesota, this song will probably make you cry. It made me weep in the theatre. Thank goodness Rosie was there to hold my hand and cry with me.)

What rivers have played a major role in your life? Do you feel connected to a particular river?

When I was hiking in the upper watershed last week, I met a man who told me that he has lived all over the country, and every place he lives he always volunteers with the local river group. Seems like a good way to meet some good people, some "our people" people, kindred spirits (as Sara would say)!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Quick and Easy Restaurant Style Salsa

I haven't found a store-bought salsa that I really like. They are all too bland or processed tasting or too vinegar-y.

You'd think the quest for an excellent salsa would be pretty easy living in the Southwest, but New Mexicans seem to focus more on their chile than salsa. You can't blame them. A burrito or rellenos smothered in chile sure beat salsa any day.

But sometimes I just want some good old chips and salsa. I tried the Pioneer Woman's recipe for restaurant style salsa, and it does the trick and it is soooo quick and easy. I usually roast tomatoes when I make salsa, but this recipe is no fuss and takes less than 10 minutes to make.

When I first made this salsa, I was a little disappointed because it seemed really bland, but after a couple of hours in the fridge, the flavors really meld and it is very tasty.  I found this to be a little too watery so I drained the tomatoes and Rotel the second time I made it.

Pioneer Woman's Restaurant Style Salsa

1 can (28 Ounce) Whole Tomatoes drained
2 cans (10 Ounce) Rotel (diced Tomatoes And Green Chilies) drained
1/4 cup Chopped Onion
1 clove Garlic, Minced
1 whole Jalapeno, Quartered And Sliced Thin
1/4 teaspoon Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/2 cup Cilantro (more To Taste!)
1/2 whole Lime Juice

Combine whole tomatoes, Rotel, onion, jalapeno, garlic, sugar, salt, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro in a blender or food processor. Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you'd like. Test seasonings  and adjust as needed. Refrigerate salsa for at least an hour.

Note: this is a very large batch. Recommend using a 12-cup food processor, or you can process the ingredients in batches and then mix everything together in a large mixing bowl.

Monday, April 23, 2012


This weekend was full of recovery, resting and catching up.

Lola went to her one-week check-up on Friday, and her doctor was very impressed. He said she is doing better than can be expected. She had her bandages removed, and she doesn't even need a hard cast because she is healing so quickly. She is still confined to her crate, but she can now go on two short walks per day. We walk down the street and back, and it is the highlight of her day. We have to hold her back. She wants to run free and wild. She goes back in two weeks for another check-up, and then I think she'll begin physical therapy. It's hard to imagine that just a week ago we were all so miserable.

We spent the weekend recovering from last weekend and all of the worrying we did for Lola. On Friday afternoon, I attended a hike of the upper watershed for work, and it was such a lovely way to end the busy week. By the time I got home, I had transitioned from the work week to the weekend with no unwinding necessary.

We took long bike rides, dined al fresco, exercised, slept in, and ate brunch. It was great. While I slept in on Sunday morning, Andrew was out zipping around on his bike picking up bagels and flowers. A nice surprise to wake up to! AND we dove into spring cleaning and purging. We accomplished a lot.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The American Star

Just one more reason my new job is a better fit for me - I spent two days last week at our City's water fiesta teaching fourth graders about healthy rivers. It was so fun being around the kiddies.

Before I moved to New Mexico I taught English to eight to twelve year olds in France, and it was so frickin' much fun. Being around the fourth graders this week brought back lots of sweet memories.

I loved my students, and they loved me, which I loved even more. One of my students once told me so sincerely - and this is an exact translation - that she loved me almost as much as she loved her own mother. If that doesn't make your heart melt, then I don't know what will.

I taught at four different schools in town, and one day my English lesson coincided with a field trip to see an assembly downtown so I attended with my students. As it turned out, all of the schools in town were attending the same event. When I got off of the bus with one of my classes, all of my other students from the other schools started waving and cheering and yelling my name (it was a really small town and being a foreigner was a real novelty and of course English was everyone's favorite class). One of the teachers turned to me and said, "C'est Mégane, notre star Américaine!" (It's Meghan, our American star!)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hang On To Me Baby And Let's Hope That the Roof Stays On

When I was in college, my best friend Ellie and I listed to a lot of Bob Dylan, and we really liked to use his lyrics in our everyday life to describe how we were feeling, to tell a story or make a joke. This weekend as poor Lola was wailing in her kennel and Elsa wouldn't leave her side (even though she was terrified) and Andrew and I fought back tears, I kept thinking that we just needed to hold onto each other and hope that the roof stays on.

Lola's TPLO surgery went fine. She did well and is a young and resilient dog girl. The vet was surprised that she was even walking before the surgery given how much pain she must have been in. He was impressed with her strength and will, and she'll need it to recover.

As much as I tried to prepare myself for the surgery and recovery, I was totally overwhelmed when she came home on Friday night. It was a major surgery involving sawing her bone in half and reattaching it at a lesser angle with a titanium plate and five screws. I almost burst into tears when we saw the x-ray of her leg with the plate and screws, but that was nothing compared to this weekend.

The vet gave her a pain patch, and the medication causes severe anxiety, which manifests itself in constant moaning, crying, howling, shrieking, etc. One way to minimize the dysphoria is to show no stress, anxiety or fear so that she can remain as calm as possible. You can imagine how hard it is to hold back when your poor dog girl is so distraught that she can't even close her eyes or take a breath without crying.

It was a tough weekend with little sleep and lots of distress chez nous, but we hung on to each other and the roof stayed on. We took turns sitting on the floor near her kennel talking to her softly, Andrew slept near her during the night when she was confused and scared, and sweet little Elsa spent the weekend staring into Lola's kennel worried as can be.

Some sweet scenes from the weekend:

Elsa just stared into Lola's kennel all weekend. At one point during the confusion, she even hopped in there with Lola.

Through the spare room window. Andrew and Lola getting some fresh air on one of her few breaks outside.

The patch is off, and Lola has calmed way down. She is quiet and peaceful and aware of her surroundings. We made it through the weekend (barely). And now we are ready to tackle six weeks of recovery.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Rough Day for My Big Tough

Even though we thought Lola's knee was getting better, it turned out to be a false start. If she walks too far it is still bothering her. On advice from a coworker, we brought her in to see a muscular specialist. He took an x-ray and recommended a major surgery.

She won't heal on her own without the surgery. I know it's the right choice, but I'm nervous. The receptionist told me that she will need to be crated for at least four weeks and can only go out on a leash briefly to do her business.

It's going to be hard to see her unable to walk easily and feeling so sick, especially since she's usually so rambunctious. It's going to be a rough weekend at our house. And probably a rough few weeks.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Psychological Shift

With a name like that you'd think this post would be about something more serious than hair...

According to my new stylist Santi (short for Santiago, which the receptionist only reluctantly told me after I had to ask her to repeat herself twice), my new haircut and style will be a real psychological shift for me. I had to exert quite a bit of effort to avoid rolling my eyes at that one, but after a couple of days, I actually think he was right. It's not a big change, but it's a fresh look, and I think I needed it - psychologically and cosmetically.

I'm one to make my choices about hair cuts slowly. I thought about bangs for a good four years before I committed to them. When I finally took the plunge, the stylist was terrified that my four years of build up would result in disappointment, and I was pretty scared too. He had to ask me at least three times to please relax my shoulders so he could tell how long he was cutting my hair. The bangs turned out to be a good choice, at least I think so, but I haven't changed my haircut much since.

This stagnation was made much easier when I moved to Santa Fe and found that the receptionist at my office cut hair in her spare time (she was trained and all but decided she needed a more stable job). In Albuquerque, I went to a hipster salon where my stylist was always giving me tips and trying to push me a little into trying new things. BUT, in Santa Fe, my stylist came to my own home, and in the safe comforts of my dining room, I felt perfectly content telling my new Santa Fean stylist to give me the same as usual. Actually, I don't think she even asked anymore after the first few times. She had a baby this winter and is taking a break from cutting hair, and I've been patiently waiting for her to call me to let me know she's back.

That means that it had been four months since my last cut. I'm trying to grow my hair out this year, and without regular trimming, it was becoming totally unruly and unhealthy. I couldn't take it any longer last week.

Like a lot of things in Santa Fe, there isn't a lot of middle ground when it comes to haircuts - we've got plenty of $100 and up haircuts and plenty of bargain places, but it's hard to find something in the middle of the road. I debated just spending the hundred dollars for a haircut and trying a new place, but in the end, I went back to my hipster salon in Albuquerque.

When I sat down in the chair, I could feel my shoulders tense up and my heart start racing. It's been almost four years since I've had my hair cut at a salon, and it felt so busy and chaotic. In a moment of panic, I thought about asking him to chop it and go back to my A-line bob, but being in the hipster salon and seeing all of the cute and daring cuts made me want to stick with it. Not that my cut is at all daring.

There is something so exhilarating about getting a good haircut and cutting away those split ends or extra inches, don't you think?  A psychological shift as some would say.

a blurry photo taken a good seven hours after the cut and after an hour of sleeping in the car on the way home. Sorry, this is the best I could manage... 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Come With

We were watching Midnight in Paris the other night, and there is a scene where F. Scott Fitzgerald asks Ernest Hemingway to come with him and leave the bar. Fitzgerald asks Hemingway to "come with." Not "come with me," just "come with."

Now, this is something I wouldn't have noticed because that's what I would say too, but Andrew immediately remarked how odd it is that Fitzgerald says "come with" because he's only ever heard Minnesotans say that. And for a split second, I almost didn't remember that F. Scott Fitzgerald is from Minnesota!

So, folks, is Woody Allen that attentive to details? Non-Minnesotans out there - do any of you also say "come with?"

p.s. a fun fact (for me at least) is that "come with" is the first thing I ever said to Andrew:
Me: I'm going to get my U card. Want to come with?
Andrew: Sure, of course, I would love to with you anywhere!!  (or something along those lines...)
(He waited a few weeks to point out how odd he thinks it is that Minnesotans say "come with.")

p.p.s. Did you notice Carla Bruni is also in this film playing the tour guide at the Rodin museum?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cooking Dried Beans in the Slow Cooker

Woo-hoo, we're really living it up over here. But seriously, as boring as this post is, I thought I would share it because everyone who I mention crock pot beans to is always pleased and wants to try it themselves.

I really, really don't like buying processed or canned foods. It grosses me out big time. We tend to use a lot of beans for patties, tacos, soups and salads so I like to make big batches of black beans and pinto beans in my slow cooker and freeze them. This is so easy, and the beans taste much better than canned. You can eat them with pleasure knowing they are healthy and without the fear of harmful chemicals leaching into your dinner.

I used the instructions from A Year of Slow Cooking. She spells it all out for you. Easy, economical and tasty. (Note Stephanie's warning about red and kidney beans - they need to be boiled rapidly on the stove for 10 minutes to kill a possible toxin.)

I like to make really big batches - as much as can fit in my slow cooker - and freeze them in mason jars. Lately, we've been eating lots of bean tacos as an easy weeknight dinner. I like to serve them with avocado, white cheddar, green onion, cilantro and homemade salsa. Yum!

I've only ever cooked black and pinto beans in my slow cooker, but I'm branching out this weekend and am going to try cranberry beans. I've never tried them before, but my friend Flora recommended them for tacos.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Big Life Questions: Balancing Priorities


One of the things that Andrew and I struggle with is finding balance in our lives in terms of how we prioritize our time and money. I'm sure everyone can relate to having limited time away from work and limited money so I assume others may have similar struggles. There's always more that we want to do than we can do. Lately we've been thinking a lot about this balance in terms of making improvements to our house.

We both work full-time at office jobs, and when we're not at work we prioritize spending our time doing things we enjoy - skiing, rafting, camping, spending time at the cabin, hiking, fishing, and when we can, traveling. Ever since we bought our house and paid off our cabin two and half years ago, we have prioritized investing our money in allowing ourselves to do these activities. We've spent our money on travel and new gear and a truck with high clearance and 4WD. And, it is wonderful. We spend a lot of time outside doing things we love.

BUT, this has meant that we haven't invested much time or money in our house. Luckily we bought a solid house that the previous owners had upgraded. It was move-in ready three years ago, and we haven't changed much. While it is in great condition and we're lucky that there is nothing that has to be fixed or anything that we absolutely hate, there are still some things we'd like to do like paint all of the rooms and install new fixtures in the bathroom and build closets for the master bedroom.

So, I got this far in writing this post, and I've realized that I have just answered my own question. As I write out that list, I know that I don't want to prioritize new fixtures over a season pass or spending my weekends painting the house over spending a weekend on the river. But I feel guilty about that. When I see all of the projects that our friends and acquaintances take on around their houses, I feel like we should be doing more. Maybe we talk about this balance a lot at our house because we're trying to justify our choices to ourselves.

Rationally, I know there's no reason that we need to justify our choices or even explain them, but that guilt creeps in. Do you ever feel guilty about how you prioritize your time or money?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sunday Evening

Sunday morning flowers
This weekend feels so satisfying. After a rough week last week, I was really ready to relax. I had to work Saturday morning giving a tour of my project to several public committee members, which I was quite nervous about, but it went great. Andrew had spent the morning working in the yard so when I was done we treated ourselves to lunch at one of our favorite cafes. I came home on Saturday afternoon and took a nap in the middle of the day, which I never do, and then we hung out on our front porch making plans for our fence. We watched a lovely movie on Saturday night - Midnight in Paris - which I didn't know anything about. I hadn't seen a preview or read anything about it, but I knew we would like it because we usually like Woody Allen films. I wasn't expecting to love it, and it made me nostalgic for wandering around Paris.

On Sunday morning we went grocery shopping, picked up some flowers, made raspberry white chocolate scones and did stuff around the house. Andrew fixed our electrical problem, and I sneaked Elsa out to the dog park (Lola can't run free yet with her knee problem).

Big husband fixing outlets in a little space.

My division recently moved to a new building and my new office is a little dreary so I splurged and ordered some artwork on etsy this week. I also ordered a bunch of photos of us doing stuff we love like traveling and fishing and rafting to help remind me why I spend all day in an office. It all arrived by Saturday so I spent the afternoon putting them in frames. 

I'm so excited to have my Minnesota and New Mexico state birds and flowers prints from Dutch Door Press:

and my vintage map of France with a native butterfly from Bug Under Glass:

Tonight we're taking it easy and hanging out around the house. I'm going to make one of our favorite recipes that I had lost track of and recently found again in my recipe book. I'm sitting her with the windows open, the sweet smell of the blossoms from our fruit trees blowing in, drinking a glass of red wine, feeling very satisfied.

Hope you had a wonderful weekend!
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