22 December 2011

Pre Christmas in Kansas City

I am proud to report that I got my Christmas "tree" up early this year - the weekend after Thanksgiving! I have been enjoying it so much. Of course, it's not a tree - it's a garland. I decided that this year I didn't have the energy to fight "Scroogio" (who, by the way, has been replaced by a non-Christmas-hating Sergio this year!) over it and to have to make my case for why the Christmas tree is worth all the trouble. I just didn't have it in me this year. Not to mention - a tree would have been the perfect height for Julia to get into and I like to get those native, invasive Eastern Red Cedars that are prickly and I can only imagine what kind of trouble Julia would have gotten into with that. 

garland and three tiny stockings - one for each of us

So I went with our trusty old back up garland. And even though it's artificial and even though it's not a tree, I love it. 
new ornament this year - Julia's hand print cut out and decorated like Santa (from Nina's school party)

With all my cards sent and my gifts purchased, wrapped and shipped, I was ready, this week, to do some long awaited holiday baking. I have yet to figure out why the winter (even a mild winter like what we're having) makes me feel like baking. But it does. So I hunkered down in the kitchen a couple of nights this week and baked two kinds of cookies - Nutmeg Maple Butter Cookies (from Smitten Kitchen), which turned out to be fantastic; and Gingerbread Folk (as I like to call them, since "Gingerbread Men" is so limiting). We bundled these up and distributed them to co-workers and to the concierge staff at our building. Oh, and we kept a few for ourselves. They were all delicious and well worth the hours of rolling and cutting out. 

I make sure my icing is super messy, that way people who receive my cookies know without a doubt that they are home made and not store bought. 

Now, it feels like the night before Christmas because we leave for Mexico tomorrow. The bags are packed; we have wrapped up our Christmas in Kansas City just in time to fly out for the next, big Christmases. (One in Mexico; one in Oklahoma.)

And since my garland is artificial, I'm leaving up until I get home. No reason not to enjoy it a few days into the new year. 

"Frosted Ginger Cut Outs" (or "Gingerbread Folk")

1 cup shortening or butter
1 cup molasses
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves

In large bowl, combine shortening and molasses; blend well. Add flour and remaining cookie ingredients to molasses mixture; mis well. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 2 hours for easier handling. 

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. On well-floured surface, roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness; cut with floured cookie cutter. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes or until set. Cool completely. 

FROSTING (Emily's Easy Icing)
a lot of powdered sugar
a little milk

To make the icing, mix a tiny bit of milk with a whole lot of powdered sugar. You just have to eye ball it until you get the consistency you want - whatever you need to ooze appropriately from your piping bag without pouring out and without getting stuck. You be the judge. 

GINGERBREAD MEN (or WOMEN!): Roll dough 1/4-inch thick for soft cookies or 1/8 inch thick for crisp cookies. Cut dough with floured gingerbread person cookie cutter. Bake as directed above. To decorate, pipe frosting on cooled cookies. 

(My recommendations on the Gingerbread People - go with 1/4 inch thickness to achieve a softer cookie, and shoot for the shorter end of the 8-10 minute baking time suggestion.)

18 December 2011

ThanksVegan #8

just some of our standards - Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes and gravy, wilted spinach salad, and butternut squash soup (the Teany recipe)

The tradition continues! Our friends, Jon and Erin, traveled to KC last weekend for our 8th Annual ThanksVegan. Each year on the day of our TV meal, we four toil in the kitchen and slave over a hot stove and chop and chop and stir and saute and blend and bake and mash and mix for many hours in a row. It's all good fun and it never feels like hours when we look back on it because Jon often condenses our marathon kitchen stint into an 8-minute video, which, not unlike Food Network programming, makes everything look like a piece of cake - a piece of vegan cake, that is. 

But this year, Jon and Erin had the brilliant idea to prep some food in advance and to buy the main course (instead of making it) to reduce our cook/prep time and to allow for extra time for just enjoying each other's company. This was a particularly prescient move on their part because - as horrible luck would have it - poor Jon came down with a 24-hour bug on Saturday. Had Jon and Erin not prepped so much in advance, and had we not bought a pre-made main course, I think our ThanksVegan would have been severely cramped. 

Gardein (I can't believe it's not turkey!) in the foreground; Julia (who was old enough to join us at the table this year) in the background.

Instead, we were able to get in a full evening of relaxed fun and fellowship before the bug hit - then we all weathered through it on Saturday and since Jon is lucky enough to be married to a doctor, he had professional medical advice at the ready. By Sunday morning he was good as new (phew!) and TV8 commenced without a hitch! 

blueberry hand pies

And it was delicious. This was the year of the pies as Erin made two kinds before they arrived on Friday night. We waited until Sunday morning (such a long wait!) to eat the Blueberry Hand Pies, which we had for breakfast while we were prepping the big meal. They were superb, whether eaten with a fork or a hand. Then for desert we had Pecan Pie (sprinkled with a bit of salt) - it was perfect - all mapley and praline-like. 

Pecan Pie while Julia spends some QT with Uncle Jon, the baby whisperer.  

Before we knew it, the pies and the weekend were coming to an all-to-fast close. So we vowed to get together again soon - much sooner than next fall - to make up for lost time. We are already looking forward to it.

Commemorative ornaments - usually we do corks from beer bottles - this year we decided to embrace the memory of the minor inconvenience of the stomach bug. 

01 December 2011

Thanksgiving and The Flu. And Pink Eye.

Thanksgiving really is my favorite holiday. Such a simple premise - gratitude! - yet one so difficult to master throughout the rest of the year. I love a day meant to emphasize it. (And I love that we do so with food, although, this year, I didn't have the extra hands to snap photos of my Fair Share Farm vegetables or my delicious Badseed goods or that fennel and leek au gratin dish I made two years ago which is ugly in photos anyway, but that was just as tasty as I remembered it being).

Christy and her family used their hand prints for this adorable toilet paper roll pilgrim turkey

This year I geared up for Thanksgiving by watching a couple of holiday-themed shows on the Food Network at my parents house the week before. On those shows, chefs with poise and fervor made masterpieces in record time and wowed judges with their ability to be both innovative and traditional. Fast forward a week and my own version is a little more crazed. I spent Thanksgiving day in my kitchen making a pie completely from scratch (having never done so before!) as well as making ALL the vegetables for our meal (beets, potatoes, fennel, chard, salad). Sergio spent the day getting the flu. Which left him less able to help out than I had expected. Which left me performing the gymnastic stunts required to accommodate a 14 month old underfoot who is busying herself with pots and pans on the floor near her mama while her daddy fever-sleeps unexpectedly in the next room. How come they never show that on the Food Network?

"Primitos de Rayas" - Nina the witch princess (with striped leggings), Emilio the pirate, and Julia the coincidentally, impromptu pirate. Costumes at Thanksgiving: a new tradition? 

Poor Sergio. He made it through our decidedly delicious meal at Christy and Armando's that night; we all had a great time, even him with his fever. The next morning he went to urgent care and came home with a flu diagnosis and something to help with the pain. Then he slept for the next 48 hours. He missed the "recalentado" at Christy's on Friday (it's worth it to spend so much time in the kitchen cooking if the food you make lasts two days!), he missed the lighting of the mayor's Christmas tree at Crown Center, and he was about to miss small business Saturday when, late in the day, he mustered enough strength to go out and buy a few records. Then he came and slept for another day.

Julia and Mommy, missing Daddy, at the Mayor's Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony

By Sunday night he was starting to come out of it. And I was just showing my first signs. I was lucky though. The flu that knocked him flat on his back and sent him down for the count, just sent me stumbling. I was feverish and very tired, but all in all it only lasted a couple of days. (His lasted 5.) I was brazenly bidding the defeated flu "good-bye" and "good riddance" on Tuesday night - perhaps too brazenly, reveling in my victory. Because I woke up Wednesday morning with flu-induced pink eye. Spoke too soon I guess.

We are finally - just today - feeling like we're getting back to normal (although I won't really feel "normal" until my eye clears up and I can put my contacts back in). We're both back at work and we're going about our business and even though it felt like a big wallop, us both being sick like that, it occurs to me that a couple of cases of flu and a spot of conjunctivitis are actually wonderful problems to have in the grand scheme of things. And what's more? Julia has managed to avoid it all (knock on wood).

a happy Thanksgiving indeed

We are fully aware of how fortunate we are and I for one feel very, very grateful.

25 November 2011

14 months

She's walking now! Took her first tentative steps about a month ago but is full on walking now. This girl can't be stopped! Not even long enough to take a milestone picture. She's the greatest. 

21 November 2011

KC Symphony: Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with Bezhod Abduraimov

Last year, since we were having a baby, we considered letting our season tickets to the symphony lapse, but we knew that existing season subscribers would get first dibs at seats in the brand new and highly acclaimed Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts for this year. So we kept our subscription, even during the year that we were too absorbed by new baby to make it to all the performances. 

And now, the 2011-2012 season is here we have really good seats. Last weekend was actually our second time in Helzberg Hall; two weeks ago we enjoyed our first performance in the acoustically superb concert hall - the Kansas City Chorale perform Brahms' Requiem. But I've really been looking forward to last weekend's performance featuring pianist Behzod Abduraimov - he played Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and he was just as amazing as I had hoped him to be. A virtuoso on a virtuosic piece inspired by a virtuoso. 

If what they are saying about Helzberg Hall is true, then Abduraimov's performance would have sounded fantastic from any seat in the house. But I heard it from just one seat very close to the stage. Close enough to see the red blemishes on the undersides of the viola players jaws, close enough to see the price sticker on the bottom of the second violinist shoe, close enough to see the wrinkle in the tails of Michael Stern's tuxedo jacket, close enough to see the beads of sweat flying off of Bezhod Abduraimov's brow while he played. I had a perfect line of site to the underside of the piano and a bit of debris on the floor and Abduraimov's feet, which - call me crazy - were fun to watch as they were just as expressive as the rest of him, which is very expressive indeed.  

19 November 2011

Long Trip to OKC (A Photo Essay)

Sergio, Julia, and I spent several days in OKC last week for an early Thanksgiving. We had lots of quality time for hanging out at Honey and Papa's - I even had time to stay up late and watch M*A*S*H with Mom and Dad, just like the old days. We pulled out old pictures and told stories; Dad pulled out his old records and told us stories. Julia and Mom and I spent a great afternoon playing at Mema's and enjoying the beautiful weather outside. It was a great trip...

a little lunch with Mema

playing on Mema's boardwalk

with Honey and Papa

 the girls and their wheels

 me as a toddler - I'm starting to see the resemblance everyone is talking about

Dad's record collection, a few of which are on loan with us to enjoy. 

03 November 2011

Halloween + Ana's Visit

Last year when I was still pregnant, I decided that I wanted to get my baby a garlic costume for Halloween. It turns out nobody makes garlic costumes for babies (which surprised me, but seems to surprise no one else). I didn't have the gumption to make one last year what with my five-week-old baby who just slept through all the festivities anyway. But this year I did and - despite being knocked out of commission for a while by sickness - I finally made my garlic costume dream come true.

Our Lil Stinker

Why garlic, you ask? I have no idea. I just really, really like it. And I wanted to call her "Our Lil Stinker." Turns out the jokes, etc., are half the fun of the garlic costume - "garlic makes everything better," said one co-worker. "If you have a couple more kids you could get a good marinara sauce going," said another. "Bet she scared off the kid dressed as Edward Cullen," said another. And my dad said, "Never has un ajo looked so muy, muy dulce." So true.

elder primos + Nina

On top of the fun of Halloween, we also enjoyed a visit from Sergio's cousin Ana, from California. We all spent a wonderful weekend together at a pumpkin patch and at the Nelson-Atkins museum, where we enjoyed a beautiful Dia de los Muertos exhibit and some gorgeous weather in the sculpture park.

the younger primos

our lil punkin

And of course, no Halloween would be complete without the right kind of food! Christy made Calabaza en Tacha (second year in a row - perhaps this will be our tradition?) which I did not photograph this year, but which I thoroughly enjoyed. And I went to a caramel-apple making party at work. (Halloween at Hallmark is so much fun.)

my caramel apple with the caramel still hot

On the big night, Nina and Emilio (and their parents) came over to do some trick or treating in our apartment building. Julia trick or treated, too, even though she doesn't understand that candy is edible. (She seemed to think it was all just a bunch of wrinkly, rattly toys.) The primitos mostly just enjoyed a night of running around and squealing with delight at one another while the mommies and daddies ate green tomato chutney and cheese and drank wine.

It was a very happy Halloween.

fairy godmother, garlic, and dinosaur

19 October 2011

13 months

13 months old • roughly 19 pounds • totally awesome in every way

Oh, and very friendly - she waves at perfect strangers in the parking lot and on the elevator. It's the cutest.

06 October 2011

Surprise Mini Vacation

Last week I had a mini vacation that I wasn't expecting to have. In truth it was a 2.5-day leadership conference for work. Not what you thought I meant when I said "vacation," right? Truthfully, I was expecting it to be kind of dull. Dull and weird. I had to go stay at a hotel downtown. And by downtown I mean like 12 blocks from my apartment. Couldn't I just stay at home with my little family and just come to the hotel during the day for the conference? I wondered. But no. Sequestration is part of the deal.

Hotel Phillips c. 1931

I checked in early Tuesday morning and low and behold, the hotel is absolutely lovely. It's a historic hotel, built in 1931 and refurbished a few times, most recently in 2001. The art deco lobby is small but high ceiling-ed and impressive. The rooms are updated and modern without being too cold.

wall in elevator bay detail

The conference turned out to be way less dull than I thought. It was a lot of just talking about yourself - and who doesn't love that? I'm an ENFP, by the way. The meals were all provided - lackluster, but provided - and I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed a few days without meal prep. There was wine and beer in the evenings, which the organizers of the conference insisted on calling "cocktails." There was a gorgeous wood paneled room where we ate dinner. There were entertaining table-mates and dining companions. There was a constant supply of coffee in cups and saucers (so classic). There were no diapers to be changed. There was poor quality wireless internet so I couldn't do any work in the evenings, even though I really did try. There was a lush and comfy bed and there was TV.

bed detail

I had no idea how therapeutic it would be in the evenings, after a long day of introspection, just to sit in bed and watch TV - something extra special since it's something I never, ever do.

chair detail

The conference, which I fully expected to be intense, weird, dull and generally unpleasant in many other ways turned out to be just the respite that I didn't know I needed.

19 September 2011

Julia's First Birthday

Well, Monday morning I was going to post on Facebook at 8:00 am that it was one year ago at that very moment that we finally met this incredible tiny human being that we'd so anxiously awaited - that it was one year ago at that very moment that our baby made her entrance into this world.

But instead, at 8:00 Monday morning, I was lumbering out the door, exhausted after a restless, sleepless night, with our fever hot birthday baby in tow. She whimpered all the way to the pediatrician. Her first ear infection on her first birthday. Not a way good way to start the day. We were so sad. On top of all that, the sky was strangely overcast - clouds so thick and low that we couldn't even see the new Kauffman Center or the the old convention center or half the buildings downtown as we drove to the doctors office. We met with the doctor (after friendly Julia waved at all the other pajama-clad, sick kids in the waiting room). 1 teaspoon of bubble gum flavored amoxicillin and 1.2 ml of acetaminophen later and Julia was on the mend. Suddenly the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day and we realized, it just might be a nice birthday after all.

So we stopped for a big breakfast and then went home for a big nap, after which we all three felt much restored and ready to take on the big birthday with aplomb. Sergio and I spent the day marveling at how exquisite Julia is - how charmingly she eats - how cleverly she learns - how delightfully she laughs - how sweetly she grins - how earnestly she investigates - how eagerly she grabs - how amazingly she grows.

But the truth is, this is how we spend every day - birthday or non-birthday. She has captivated us so fully; she has fundamentally changed us at the core with her absolute pureness and wonder. And she has no idea.

It's true - I can't believe it's been a year. But then again, she has grown so much - so maybe I can believe it's been a year. And then in many weird ways, I feel like she's been here more than a year, that she was always here, somewhere, waiting in the wings. That she was meant to be. And now she has hit the stage and become our star. And that ... well, I think she does know that.

Indeed. I love this little girl more than I can possibly convey. Happy Birthday, Julia.

18 September 2011

Julia's First Birthday Party

This is the post about the party. Perhaps tomorrow I will write the post about how utterly delightful Julia is and how fantastic my role as her mommy is and how much I have loved the last year. But for now ... pictures.

We chose a rainbow theme for her party; but of course the real bright ray of sunshine - especially on a rainy, overcast day, was Julia herself.

Julia's tia Christy made a perfect piñata for the party. And, carrying on the birthday tradition from my Mema's house, we brought out the extra special red plate.

Pom poms, courtesy of Lindsey, Christy, Minli, and Tyler.

Zig-zag streamers, with help from Ling.

Fruit plate.

Veggie plate - with blue potatoes! But I can't believe no one told me my orange and yellow were switched.


17 August 2011

In the Last Two Weeks ...

I am happy; in the last two weeks I have been able to...

See my girlfriends from high school...

(l. to r. Dana, Lauren, Kreisa, Emily, and Ricki Lea; not pictured but missed - Deena)

Visit with Mema (with Julia, too) ...

Reading Mema's magazine.

Showing Mema how she plays telephone.

In honor of her namesake (Mema's mother), Julia Wesson Taylor - Julia turned her hair red for this photo.

And attend a lovely wedding in Weston...

The wedding was in an orchard.

The reception was in a barn.

We had a blast.