Saturday, April 30, 2011

Weather is Beautiful, Wish You Were Here

We had had the AC on for a while now, but today, we turned it off and threw the windows open, as it's supposed to stay in the low 80s.  I wish it could stay like this all summer - it's PERFECT!
After HRH went to bed last night, I put together my new "gazpacho garden," a.k.a. whiskey tub with two tomatoes and two chiles, and planted my replacement lavenders and impulse buy - a pineapple sage.  This morning, I was able to actually see them (it was almost 10PM when I came in last night), so that was a bonus.

I got this idea from Sunset; the original suggestion was
a galvanized steel tub, but I love whiskey tubs.
I also only put in chiles and tomatoes; the magazine included
basil (ew) and chives (already somewhere else).

Thursday, April 28, 2011

At a Complete Floss

Nearly two more months have lapsed in 2011, and I need to reflect on my objectives for the year as well as those monthly ones that have seemed to bedevil me (in the teaching world, we call this "monitor and adjust" - that is fancy talk for "what is wrong with you?").

Practicing compassion - well, that's an ongoing project, now, isn't it?  Sometimes, when the toddler has peed on the carpet three times in what seems like five seconds, it's hard to be compassionate with the next person you speak to.  Sometimes, when the dog goes nuts and knocks things over on her way to the door, only to run smack into it (funnier when she hasn't broken things), it's hard to remember that she's just a dog and can't understand your anger and frustration.  Sometimes, when the idiot cuts you off and makes you nearly swerve into another car, it's impossible not to let loose a barrage of words that are totally inappropriate for the two-year-old audience in your back seat about whom you have clearly forgotten in the heat of the moment.  That's why it's called practicing compassion (insert joke about doctors/lawyers and their practices here).  I'm practicing in order to get better.  Some days are easier than others, that's certain.  But I think (anecdotally speaking, here) that I am getting better at stopping myself and thinking for a second before I decide that calling someone a moron is the best decision I could possible make at that moment.  I even had the words "practice compassion" engraved on the last line of my new Road ID.  That way, if I get hit by a car, the moron who did it will know that I was at least trying to be nice.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Chillin' With Ma Peeps

Not THOSE Peeps®
Easter, like Thanksgiving, is another holiday on which my husband's family gets together for a large family dinner.  Everyone is in charge of bringing something.  Usually everyone overdoes it.
A family dinner is a wonderful opportunity, even though most people find them stressful.  True, I was in the kitchen all day on Saturday getting our assigned foodstuffs ready, which made me tired and a little grouchy.  That being said, once the burger buns were made, the pie set, and everything unloaded from the car, it was nice to sit, relax, and chat with everyone as the kids ran around.  While I know that no one has a great time with every family member every time, losing integral family members like my dad has made me look forward to the time I am able to spend with my family as well as Scott's family.
Scott and I were charged with:

  • potato salad
  • burger buns
  • pulled pork (so Scott could use his smoker)
  • dessert

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Super Fun at Super Farm

There is really nothing like a meal made from the freshest local ingredients.  The only thing that makes such a meal better is when it's prepared by someone else.
Yesterday, a friend and I took our girls to Superstition Farm for the farm's Earth Day tour.  On top of the classroom presentation and hayride, the farm also introduced the community and xeriscape gardens that it's been working on, there were booths for area partners that we could visit, and the kids were able to plant some cotton seeds in milk jugs.  The person who has the tallest cotton plant by the end of July wins ice cream for the entire family, so I am all about this contest, even if HRH didn't want to get her hands dirty.
strawberry, butterscotch,
& pistachio milks here
Now, in addition to the milk bar (this time we tried banana, pistachio, strawberry, peaches & cream, chocolate, and butterscotch), Superstition Farms has its own food truck that makes appearances at local farmer's markets, so we were able to have lunch fresh from and at the farm.
The burger was tempting, but I opted for the fried egg "sammy," which had in addition to the egg, bacon, cheddar cheese, tomato, spinach, and a chipotle aioli.  It was served with cornbread hush puppies, also with the aioli.  Oh, my, it was delicious.  The difference in taste between store-bought eggs or cheese and these was tangible, and it was difficult not to inhale it.  I wanted to really enjoy and savor it, after all.  Thankfully, the girls were ready to go play after about two bites of their own lunches so it was take a bite, chase for a little bit, come back and take another bite, repeat.
As for the milk - I was in love with the butterscotch and peaches & cream (although HRH kind of hogged that one), but the pistachio was surprisingly excellent, too.  I had feared a fake flavoring, kind of like pistachio flavored pudding (gag!), so I was having trouble even wanting to taste this one, but really - it tasted like real pistachios.  With the milk, it was subtle and creamy; this is definitely worth a try when you are there (not like the other ones aren't - I have yet to find a flavor that is just "meh").
The Superstition Farm tour is always a great time; the family truly loves being in the dairy business but also teaching others about how we are connected in the food cycle.  Farmer Casey's passion to reduce waste is remarkable; just listen to his excitement when he talks about the amount of citrus the farm helped NOT throw into the landfill this year during his "lesson" in the classroom (a perfect discussion for Earth Day - clearly Farmer Casey and the rest of his family love Mother Earth).  If you haven't gotten out there yet, do it; it's most certainly a place to go for a fantastic family outing.

The food's so good, even the chickens wanted to get in on it!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

When the Moon Hits Your Eye Like a Big Pizza Pie... Your Friends Are Terrible People

I love pizza.
But then, perhaps you already gathered that.
When I was pregnant, I wanted pizza all the time  All.The.Time.  I think I may now know how junkies feel, as I was never able to feel like I got enough of it, and my poor husband only too willingly said, "OK" each time I suggested pizza for dinner.  Or lunch.  Or brunch.  Or...
Well, I still love pizza; nothing really has changed there.
So of course, it was time to start making it myself.  And by "making it myself," you will know by now that I don't mean go purchase a Boboli® crust and throw toppings on it (actually, I think Boboli® is pretty gross).
No, I needed to make my own crust and then throw my toppings of choice on it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Someone's in the Kitchen with Mommy

I enlisted HRH's assistance in making cookies today.  Now that I made a new batch of peanut butter, I need to use it.  So what could be better than peanut butter cookies?  There is something nostalgic about those little fork-squished cookies, and they sounded darn good to me this morning.
But how to make them slightly better for me.  Now, don't get me wrong - when I want a cookie, I still want to know that I'm eating a treat (if it were meant to be really healthy, it would be called broccoli).  But that doesn't mean I can't make it slightly better.
Enter whole wheat peanut butter cookies.  What I like about this recipe is that it is not really much removed from a "traditional" recipe save for the whole wheat.  I used real butter; I have this thing about using substitutes.  But since I was using homemade peanut butter and homemade vanilla, a lot of the garbage that might be found in even a homemade cookie using traditional store-bought ingredients was still absent.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hey, Jerky!

I broke in the new dehydrator today by making Zooey some jerky.  While there are many, many... MANY dog treats that can be purchased at the pet stores (even the "natural" ones), most of them are chock-full of grains, which are none to good for my girl's gastro-intestinal system (and the welfare of those with whom she spends her time).
Thus, I made an impulse buy at the grocery store the other day - beef livers and beef hearts.  Yum.
If you are looking to make a treat for your furry baby, perhaps consider this recipe.
(disclaimer - please pardon the pictures that feature the floor - we did NOT mop this weekend)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saving the World - Pat's Run

I once again got up way too early in order to join 28,000 of my closest friends in honoring Pat Tillman in the 7th annual Pat's Run, sponsored by the Pat Tillman Foundation.
Pat Tillman was an Arizona State University Sun Devil who, upon graduation in 1997, was selected in the 7th round of the NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals.  In 2002, however, after the events of September 11, 2001, Pat joined the army along with his brother Kevin, signing up for a three-year commitment with the Army Rangers, based out of Fort Lewis, Washington.  He was killed in Afghanistan in 2004.
Pat's death remains one of the most controversial of the war in Afghanistan, but his friends and family chose instead of honor the sacrifice that he made by creating the Pat Tillman Foundation that year.
Pat's Run is its signature event.  Held in Tempe and ending at the 42-yard line of Sun Devil Stadium to commemorate Pat's #42 while at ASU, the course is 4.2 miles in length.  The run helps the Foundation support military families.
This was my first year participating in Pat's Run (in which participants may also choose to walk; there is also a .42-mile kids' fun run).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sadie, Sadie, Pretty Lady

My friend Christie's daughter is amazing.  Sadie was born in January 2010 and was immediately rushed to the NICU at Phoenix Children's Hospital.  Doctors told Christie and her husband that Sadie had significant brain damage due to oxygen deprivation at birth (a virus attacked her in the womb) and likely wouldn't have a measurable quality of life; thus, they made the most difficult decision a parent might ever have to make.  They decided to take her off life support.  After what I can only imagine was the worst night ever for them, Christie and Brian said their goodbyes and turned off the life support.
And Sadie started breathing on her own.
Then she was able to swallow on her own.
Then she started to suckle on her own.
And now she is over a year old, eating pretty well and smiling a great deal.  This week she got her third tooth!
Sadie's 12-month picture - don't you LOVE that smile?
Photo courtesy Beck Family Blessings
You can follow Sadie's progress at Christie's blog, Beck Family Blessings.  Make sure that you get the full story of the beginning of their journey by reading Sadie's Story.
Because of the virus, Sadie has several developmental delays, which require different kinds of therapy.
One of these therapies utilizes an iPad, which currently is being used to help increase Sadie's motor skills (like reaching) and cognitive skills.  The first time Sadie was exposed to the iPad, she really seemed to enjoy it (watch a video here).  Later on, it can also be used to help her with her speech and communication skills.  You can check out the blog Babies with iPads to see how special needs kids like Sadie can benefit from them.
An iPad, if you have been living under a rock, is pretty expensive.  It's not like everyone can just walk to the Apple store and pick one up.  And while there are grants available to families like Christie's for iPads, there isn't enough money for every child who needs one.
So, Christie is reaching out to friends and supporters for a little help.  She created a fundraising page to help Sadie get an iPad.
If Sadie's story warmed your heart and brought tears to you like it did me, please consider a small donation.  This piece of technology can do so much for her, and even $5 can help this little miracle immensely.
To donate, you can click directly on the link above.  Christie also has placed a widget on the family's blog.
Oh, and if you are on Facebook, make sure to find their page to see even more great pictures of Sadie!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Baking a Difference

I am thrilled and honored to be able to contribute today's Frosting for the Cause entry. Have you heard the buzz yet?
Frosting for the Cause is a blog featuring 365 different bloggers throughout the United States and Canada who are focusing their baking efforts and monetary donations on the fight against cancer.  We are sharing a recipe of a favorite baked good, replete with pictures of the process, and sharing special people (specifically women) who have battled cancer. While I'm hopeful that awareness about cancer no longer has to be raise, the website is dedicated to raising funds and inciting action in order to place cancer alongside polio and smallpox as a disease that has been largely conquered.
Today, my recipes (I offered three) honor those whom I have lost to cancer - specifically, my grandmother, a family friend, and my dad (there were so many more people, family and friends alike, that I might also have mentioned).  My donation of cookies and money, though, did more than honor someone.  I know that both work to help Lily defeat cancer.  I have mentioned Lily here before; she is the daughter of a co-worker of mine.  She is 11 years old, and she has Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma.
Ready for the bake sale!
I was fortunate enough to donate my cookies this last weekend to a bake sale that raised money to directly help Lily fight her cancer and pay her mounting medical bills.  This bake sale was affiliated with a cut-a-thon, and I made a donation here to get my hair cut (awesome job, by the way!).  In March, a lunch fundraiser was held, and Scott, HRH, and I went out to support that effort, too.  I further plan to donate to Lily's fund via her blog; please consider helping her out, too.
In the fight against cancer, there is never a donation that is too small.  My donations to Lily directly support her personal fight, yet I know that there are so many others who need assistance as well.  If I could, I would make donations to everyone I met. But I can't.  I can't do this alone.  This is what I love about Frosting for the Cause. Each blogger has committed to donating $25.  Not a huge amount in the grand scheme of things, true.  But when each donation from all 365 of us is added together, the total amount is $9,125.  And that's just the minimum.  Many people have donated more than that.  What's more, these blog posts have helped spur other donations (from people like you, our wonderful followers).
Cancer - any cancer - is a terrible and terrifying disease.  But it is also JUST a word. And people working together are more powerful than any single word.
Thank you to Paula at Frosting for the Cause for extending this opportunity to me and to those who are fighting for their lives.  I hope they know that I will fight beside them.

Frosting for the Cause

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lunch Date

Due to fortunate circumstances, I was able to meet Scott for lunch today.  It was nice to get out for lunch, as I am usually scarfing it down over my desk around 2:00 when I realize I'm starving.
We met at Gilbert Pizza, which is located just across the street from the Gilbert Civic Center.  During lunch, the restaurant only offers walk-up service; you have to go for dinner if you want them to take your order at your table.  However, you get the best view of the pizzas they offer, including a baked ziti pizza (yes - pasta on pizza - it's like some sort of carb lover's holy grail) and a chicken marsala pizza, if you walk in and order a slice for lunch.
And all you need is one slice.  Uh, and some garlic knots.  They are also delicious, so don't overdo it on the pizza.
I had the spinach and ricotta slice.  There were mounds (literally mounds) of gooey ricotta covering large pieces of dark green spinach.  Yum - cheesy and spinach-y!  It didn't take me long to inhale my slice and the three knots that were my allotment.  The knots are garlicky and cheesy, too, so I was a happy carbaholic.
Do you see the ginormous globs of ricotta?  Beautiful.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Keen on WHAAAAAAAA?????

That title may be a new low in puns.
I had this bee in my bonnet about using carrots for dinner today, but I didn't want to chop them into a basic salad, and I didn't want to cook them again, and I still haven't pickled any, so I am kind of up against a wall.
A quick web engine search found a Danny Boome recipe for carrots and couscous, and I thought, what the heck - I'll try my own version, but with quinoa, as it's Meatless Monday, which, uh, kind of fell apart when I was eating lunch and realized that my leftover bulgogi and rice didn't quite fit the parameters of said weekday.
Now, again, I was using what I had, and this recipe is what I had.  Editorial in just a moment...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Real Men Eat Quiche... Because it's Delicious, and Not Just Because Their Beautiful Wives Make it for Dinner

I am a baking fool.  Most of Saturday, I spent in the kitchen, except for the short time that I had to run to the store because my Friday store jaunt did not get two of the ingredients I had on my list, which I had left at home (not super useful).  Of course, I left YESTERDAY'S list at home, too, which required me to ask Scott to go BACK to the store to get one more thing.  I need a sign on my door that says, "Do you have your shopping list?"
But at least when I was in the kitchen I wasn't falling apart.  I made three different cookies for a fundraiser. More on that to come; I have the honor of being a guest blogger at Frosting for the Cause this Wednesday, April 13.  Stay tuned!
I also had to figure out something for dinner.  I wanted to make sure that I used as many of our veggies as possible; we still have some from last week's pick-up, and we got arugula, spinach, AND lettuce this week, so there are a great many items that will get slick and slimy if we don't use them toot sweet.
Thus, last night's menu included not only cookie batter, but also a quiche and glazed root veggies.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Anatomy of a Salad

In an attempt to balance my need to not throw any more slimy veggies into the compost bin AND use the anise-scented fennel that we got in last week's share,  I decided to make a hot salad.  Reasons:
  1. It would use lettuce
  2. I could roast the fennel, diluting the anise-y-ness.
  3. Scott had a soccer game, so he wasn't going to eat something very heavy.
  4. I was being kind of lazy.
In addition to the fennel, I chopped up some beets and the radishes that I could have sworn we had the other day but wasn't able to find until last night.  All of these were tossed in a little olive oil and thrown in the oven after I attempted to make croutons with the last few end pieces of bread that I had, sitting and taking up space in the fridge.  
I cut the pieces up into little squares and tossed them in a bowl with olive oil, cracked black pepper, salt, garlic powder, and onion powder.  Then I threw them in the oven for about 15 minutes at 400°.
a leeeeetle crispy...
The good news is that I made enough croutons to go on the salad.  The bad news is that I still ended up burning over half of them.
Still terrified that I would suffer through a licorice salad, I roasted the veggies until the fennel was crispy and kind of black.  At least the beets were tender, right?
Then, I constructed.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Polenta Dancing

On Sunday, our friend Danielle brought up our limoncello to begin "Phase 2" of the process.  I hadn't seen our little jar since January, and it was YELLOW.  The lemon zest really had gone to work, coloring the Everclear a bright canary yellow.
We then made a simple syrup; after it cooled, we poured it in.  The liquid and zest swirled around, and it immediately became cloudy - a good sign, according to my friends who have made it before.  I then set it aside, and we wait, once again, for at least 45 days.  After that time frame (if we can wait longer, we will), we'll be able to filter it and should have limoncello!  My friends plan to give theirs away as gifts... sorry, friends.  We are splitting it with Danielle and keeping it, but perhaps if you come visit us in the heat of the summer, we'll share a sip or two.
Unless it's terrible - then we'll give it away.