31 January 2011

Join a CSA!

This week the talk is all about snow and ice and wintry mix and single digit temps, but instead I'm thinking about fresh vegetables.

As frozen as it may be out there, this is actually a good time of year to think about a Community Supported Agriculture program. The farmers are thinking of it, of course, getting ready for the season already. I put in my deposit for my CSA in December and I'm already looking forward to fresh veggies in May.

I love my CSA and feel like I've become CSA evangelist, telling anyone who'll listen about the marvels of local, organic vegetables every week. About new recipes and new vegetables. About finding out that I actually love tomatoes. About getting to know "my" farmers - heroes in my world.

This year the KC CSA Coalition is hosting a CSA Open House on Saturday, February 12 - an opportunity to meet CSA farmers directly, find out about their CSA programs and - hopefully - join! It'll be a great opportunity to secure a spot in a CSA program. You'll be glad you did when May rolls around and the weekly freshness starts flowing in.

click for more info, a map, and details on parking

• Meet your local CSA farmers ALL IN ONE PLACE!
• Find out how Community Supported Agriculture works with your life!
veggies, fruits, meats, eggs, and more!
• Invest your hard-earned money in our local economy!
• Enhance your farm-to-plate connection!

29 January 2011

KC Symphony: Ravel's Spanish Rhapsody, Plus Shostakovich

Last night we went to the symphony for the first time this season, having been otherwise occupied last fall. We called on Sergio's sister to watch Julia for us; to have a trusted family member near by who can watch our baby while we enjoy some live music is, I realize, a priceless opportunity. But priceless though it may be, we tried to offer some payment for her generosity by bringing dinner over before hand to say thanks. And so together we enjoyed delicious take out from Cupini's and some nice dinnertime conversation, including the most recent escapades of Emilio the Great, our 15-month old nephew who (like many his age) has a penchant for trouble. Recently he managed to pull down a lamp, paint a small space of wall with Vaseline, and ruin an alarm clock with milk - all in the space of five minutes and all from the comfort of his crib.

It was precisely this destructive but hilarious mini-rampage that I was imagining during the brief, rambunctious first piece of the evening - the Interlude from La boda de Luis Alonso, a zarzuela by Jerónimo Giménez - which was six minutes of delightfully raucous and rowdy music that seemed like a fitting soundtrack to Emilio's adorable tirade, as I imagined it.

Adding to the energy of the evening was Giancarlo Guerrero, a memorable return guest conductor, whose excitement and charisma evoked rollicking giggles from the man in the seat next to me.

After Sinfonía No. 4 by Roberto Sierra, a curious but very new piece, it was time for intermission and I was disappointed to discover that after 31 minutes of symphonic works, the music playing in my head was the tinny little song from the frog toy hanging in Julia's carseat. Go figure. I couldn't get her off my mind so I called Christy to check in. I got the feeding/diaper/sleep report just as the end-of-intermission bell was ringing and we scuttled back to our seats to prepare for Alisa Weilerstein on Cello playing Shostakovich's Concerto No. 2 in G Major for Cello and Orchestra.

As I've said before, I'm not a huge fan of Shostakovich, but I try to be open-minded and so I started reading about the piece in the program. It went a little something like this - "... at the center of the Concerto stands a cheeky scherzo in the sardonic and bitingly witty vein - let's see, if Julia had a new diaper at 7:30 then I guess she wouldn't need a new diaper until - a wistful, limpid motive in rocking 6/8 meter; a martial theme in leaping intervals; and a hymnal phrase in slower tempo - so if she's asleep right now and she just ate she'll probably be fine until--wait , what time do we get out here?" So on and so forth. So I gave up reading and decided just to listen instead.

The Shostakovich was ... how shall I put it? Just really, really sad. I'm not just saying that because I managed to read just enough of his bio to learn about his failing health and his time in a sanatorium. The whole thing was just all mournful and sort of defiant. I'm not complaining, mind you. An evening of live orchestral music - no matter how mournful - is a welcome break from the constant hum of Julia's blow dryer white noise and 24/7 NPR (my own comforting white noise, I guess).

Ms. Weilerstein, interpreted this mournful concerto adeptly and passionately. I decided to focus on her performance and let my mind go - instead of letting the emotion of the piece get to me and send me to all the anxious places in my imagination - and I found myself wondering if it's hard to play the cello if you are nine months pregnant which Ms. Weilerstein is not but - what can I say? - I still have baby on the brain.

The evening ended with a bit more wild rumpus in the form of Rapsodie Espagnole, written by Maurice Ravel while he was living hermit-like on a boat, which somehow seems relevant when you hear the piece, especially the part at the beginning that he described at "voluptuously drowsy." This Spanish rhapsody was a nice book end to the zarzuela that started the evening and by the time we left, right on time to pick up Miss Julia, the tinny little toy frog music was - at last - looooong gone.

22 January 2011

The Last Year and The New Year

Perhaps it's a little late in January for a 2010 retrospective, but I have spent most of this month pondering the course of the last twelve months, so a gathering of these thoughts three weeks into the new year doesn't feel too late to me.

I rang in the new year this year feeling completely awash in the reality of Julia; on New Year's Eve, a few minutes before midnight, I pulled her out of the pack and play so she'd be with us at the stroke of midnight. As soon as I had her in my arms it dawned on me that she had been with us at the stroke of midnight last year, and that at that same moment a year ago, I was already pregnant with her and didn't know it yet. And suddenly the miracle of life in all its magnitude blew me away all over again while Julia just kept sleeping in my arms, oblivious and swaddled, looking like a burrito.

Last weekend, on the Martin Luther King, Jr holiday, I celebrated our one-year 'preg-iversary' (as one friend dubbed it) remembering that day last January that Sergio and I found out we were having a baby. That milestone being so close to the new year triggered lots of memories and so, like a rolling snowball or a pregnant belly that steadily increases in size, I have been recalling every stage of the pregnancy, the miraculous progression, the full range and spectrum of emotions, each season of the year, each "babymoon," each step along the way - step over step, step over step - that has brought us to today.

December marked the end of the phenomenal year of the baby. It also marked the end of the "fourth trimester," as it's known, and the start of January was roughly the half-way point in my gloriously long six-month maternity leave. So since the year began, I have slowly started thinking about work again. I am prepping myself to go back, reminding myself of the things I love about my job even though I know I'll spend the first days (weeks? months?) thinking only about Julia's every wiggle, giggle, and smell.

tummy time

Which are the things that have filled up this long leave - they are the tiny, minute details that I spend the day collecting - sometimes with my camera, always with my head and heart. We have our daily activities and routines, which I will miss ... or to spin it more optimistically, our daily activities and routines which I am going to savor, relish, and wallow in for the next two months until I turn her over to Sergio for six months of quality time with Daddy.

morning tea and teether routine

Not just routines and activities but developments, too. Everyday it's something new. Learning to hold the teether and bring it to her mouth (if only for a second before she flails her arm out and sends the teether flying), learning new chatting and chirping and squealing and gurgling sounds, learning to grab and bat at the rattles hanging above her on the play mat.

There isn't a moment to lose with this little girl.

Julia having a lengthy conversation with herself in the mirror, reminiscent of that one scene in "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

19 January 2011

Four Months

4 months old • 12 pounds, 11 ounces • 24 inches long • 100% delightful

14 January 2011

Junior Milk Monster Association

Julia's initials or Junior Milk Monster Association

I'm gettin' a little crafty here on my maternity leave! I was inspired by the fantastic onesies that our friends and coworkers made for our shower last summer and I had some left over fabric samples, so I had this great idea to do a onesie with Julia's initials. So when my mom was in town for the baptism, she helped me get this project going. It took a tad bit longer than I thought it would and if we were to sell these puppies on Etsy we figured we'd want to charge about 50 bucks for them. Which is why this one is and will remain a one of a kind.

Sergio helped with the font. I should have let him do all the blanket stitching, too, instead of me - it would have come out a little less, um, homey-looking had his penchant for precision played a part. At any rate - I'm so stinkin' proud of this. And when she out grows it (in no time at all, I'm sure!), I'm making it into a pillow or something with a little more longevity than a 3-6 month onesie. It's too good to put away.

11 January 2011

2011 - Year of the Soup

We've been eating a lot of soup so far this year. And while I don't think we'll actually spend the entire year on a soup diet, we have at least sustained it for nearly two weeks and it's been a blast planning out our menus.

On a regular basis, we make a lot of soups and stews that are terribly similar and formulaic (this one, this one, and this one, for example) and so I was looking to diversify our repertoire with a few new and different soups. Plus, I wanted to take advantage of my being home all day thus allowing for 6-hour soups in the crock pot. So, I've been reading Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker each night before bed, picking out some recipes and trying not to get distracted by the complicated and delicious-sounding non-soup recipes.

We've had a couple of chunky soups or stews, a chili, some smooth pureed soups, some with a tomato base and some without. Each one different, all of them vegan, and most of them as locally sourced as possible. A trip to Badseed's winter market last Friday boosted our ingredient list for the second week of soup and beyond.

So here's what we've had...

Monday: Lentil Soup with Ribbons of Kale - I made this for some friends who had a baby right before Christmas; I'd been craving it ever since, so it was first on the list. An oldie but a goodie.

Tuesday: Creamy Tomato Soup with Israeli Couscous (see the recipe below) - our beloved Cosentino's, alas, did not have Israeli Couscous. But we made do with a charming tiny shell pasta. This was a very fun soup that I intend to add to our regular repertoire.

Wednesday: Red Bean and Quinoa Chili - my "award-winning" chili ... okay, it's not really mine (it's Cynthia Lair's from Feeding the Whole Family) and it really only won second place (out of three chilis) ... but it's delicious nonetheless.

Thursday: Lentil Soup with Ribbons of Kale Redux - I added Field Roast Sausage to spruce up our left overs.

Friday: Dinner out at Eden Alley where we had soup! Potato Dill to be exact.

Saturday: ¡Pozole! Sergio found this super simple and delicious recipe. It's traditionally made with meat, but what ours lacked in traditional ingredients, it made up for in traditional garnishes: radish, red onion, cilantro, lime, and tostadas.

Some fancy smoked salts that Sergio got for Christmas made a nice addition to our other traditional garnishes.

Sunday: On the seventh day, we rested from our soup fest and had a special lunch at Blue Bird Bistro in honor of Julia's baptism.

Monday: Winter Squash Soup (see recipe below) - one giant butternut squash from the Badseed winter market was the star of this show.

Tuesday: Two Mushroom Barley (see recipe below) - if you love mushrooms, you'll love this soup. Funny thing, though - I don't love mushrooms. In fact, I was preparing to eat left over winter squash soup if this little number was going to come out as mushroomy as it smelled all day. But eventually the pearled barley plumped and took a prominent place among the mushrooms and, lo and behold, I actually like it!

Wednesday: Left over Winter Squash (for me) and Two Mushroom Barley (for Sergio)

Thursday: Golden Summer Squash Soup - I know - a weird thing to eat in the winter, right? But it's one of the soups I made in September, before Julia was born, and it's been hanging out in the freezer all this while. It was just as delicious four months later.

Golden Summer Soup with salsa and tostadas

The following recipes are from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker.

Creamy Tomato Soup with Israeli Couscous
Israeli couscous is distinctly different from regular couscous in appearance and flavor. About the size of peppercorns, Israeli couscous can be found in well-stocked supermarkets and gourmet grocers. If unavailable, substitute acini de pepe (peppercorn) pasta, or another small soup pasta such as orzo or ditalini.

Slow cooker size: 4 quart
Cook time: 6-8 hours (ours was done in 6)
Setting: Low
Serves: 4

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
(I added about 1 cup of chopped red peppers)
3 cups vegetable broth
one 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (or one quart of local canned tomato halves!)
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
pinch of sugar or a natural sweetener
2 bay leaves
(I added a teaspoon each of basil and oregano; I also added a 1/2 teaspoon of tamari soy sauce)
salt and pepper
1 cup cooked Israeli couscous
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves for garnish

Heat the oil in a medium-size skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. (You can leave this step out and just but the onion and garlic straight in.)

Transfer the vegetables to a 4-quart slow cooker, add the stock, tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, and bay leaves (and basil and oregano and soy sauce); season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on Low for 6-8 hours. Remove the bay leaves and purée the soup in a food processor or blender or use an immersion blender to purée it in the slow cooker. Adjust the seasonings.

To serve, spoon about 1/4 cup of cooked couscous into the bottom of each bowl, ladle the hot soup on top, and serve sprinkled with the basil.

Winter Squash and Sweet Potato Soup
This soup is a great way to begin Thanksgiving dinner. Best of all, when made in a slow cooker, it frees up the already-crowded stovetop and keeps the soup at a good serving temperature while everyone gathers at the table.

Slow Cooker Size: 4 to 6 quart
Cook Time: 6 hours
Setting: Low
Serves 4-6

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
2 medium-size sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced (I had a huge squash so I used all squash and no sweet potatoes)
4 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, and celery, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the cooked vegetables to a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add the sweet potatoes, squash, stock, thyme, and sage; season with salt and pepper, cover, and cook on Low for 6 hours.

Purée the soup in a blender or food processor, working in batches, or directly in the slow cooker using an immersion blender. Taste to adjust the seasonings, and serve hot.

Two-Mushroom Barley Soup
Both dried and fresh mushrooms are used in this satisfying soup popular throughout Eastern Europe. Any kind of dried mushroom is fine for this soup - I especially like the woodsy flavor of porcini. Pearl barley can be found in most supermarket or health food stores.

Slow Cooker Size: 4-6 quart
Cook Time: 6 hours
Setting: Low
Serves 4-6

1 ounce dried mushrooms
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium-sized yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 celery rib chopped
1 cup pearl barley
8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced (we got ours from Paul and Judy at Badseed!)
6 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons minced fresh chives

Place the dried mushrooms in a heatproof measuring cup and cover with hot water. Let sit until softened. Drain, straining and reserving 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid, thinly slice the mushrooms, and set aside.

Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the cooked vegetables to a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add the barley, both kinds of mushrooms, the stock, the reserved mushroom liquid, and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. Taste to adjust the seasonings before serving. If a thinner soup is desired, add more broth.

Serve garnished with the chives.

09 January 2011

Julia's Baptism / Bautizo de Julia (A Photo Essay)

Julia, excited about her big day

For the occasion, Julia wore a gorgeous baptism gown knitted by our dear friend and talented knitter Jieun. There was as much ooing and ahhing over the beautiful dress as there was over our beautiful Julia. Thank you, Jieun!

Here she is at the baptismal font, reprising the winning smile with which she wowed Canon Sue during the ceremony.

We are very proud of our Julita and are grateful to everyone who was able to be there to make her day special - Honey and Papa; her padrinos, Christy and Armando; and lots of loving folk at the church.

05 January 2011

The Holidays

This year it was back to our old holiday travel routine - a few days in OKC and a week in Mexico and then ringing in the new year on a plane - only this year we had our newest little travel buddy along for the ride. She was quite a trooper - a good little traveler.

Little Christmas Munchkin

Duendecita de Navidad

But before we left home we had a little bit of Christmas on our own, including a Christmas Tree! With a ton of generous help from Christy and Armando, I was able to pick up my native (but invasive!) eastern red cedar (from Laura at Blue Door Farm) at Badseed market. I do love a free-spirited Christmas Tree; Sergio calls it a Christmas Bush.

The Christmas "Bush"

Another little bit of Christmas, new this year - I finally made it back to the Messiah Singalong at church. I haven't been in 6 years, but I've wanted to go back all this while. So while Jujube hung out with her dad and her tio Armando and learned all about Pink Floyd, Mommy spent three lovely hours trying to remember all the alto parts from Freshman Choir in college. The singalong is a great Christmas tradition and I hope I can go next year.

Christmas candles with a bowl of torn construction paper Christmas ornaments that my brother and I made when we were kids.

our lil flower

A few days before Christmas, we crammed our luggage full of gifts and flew off, first to OKC, then to Mexico. I'm afraid there was no white Christmas for us this year - not like last year's unbelievable weather. But there were other treats to be had this year - getting to see family (quality time with Mema, Jujube getting to finally meet her Uncle Danny) and some long-awaited edible treats, too (tacos and quesadillas and atole and ponche).

eating her hands at Honey and Papa's

Julia's "boot" in Mexico (literal translation for the Spanish word for stocking)

And at the end of the whole trip, we even made it home in time to go to Spin! Neapolitan Pizza - one of the only places open on New Years Day! - to celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary.