Saturday, August 25, 2012

ends and beginnings

A celebration in style:


We begin with an ending- Steve is officially done with Americorps!

FYI, I spent my first year post-college providing afterschool enrichment at a program in south Arlington, a DC suburb chock-full of at-risk kiddos who need a good, safe, educational-type place to go afterschool. They also enjoyed having wholesome young do-gooder Americorps members upon which to heap ridicule at that program :) That’s where I met Steve, and we oh-so-subtly had our workplace romance (everyone knew). I felt burnt out at the end of one year, and left for the food bank, but Steve had another year in him. That was nice for me cause I could keep my connection to the program, and also got to meet Steve’s very cool new coworkers.

SO we had a big fat picnic. In the shadow of the Washington Monument! (The Lapiz, as our kids and parents called it).



(Friends and their significant others. Including people with SPOUSES. HALF OF THE PEOPLE AT THIS PICNIC WERE MARRIED AGGGH WHY I AM SO OLD).

Being national parks, of course, the hallowed grounds of the monuments do not permit drinking.



No one would ever suspect this innocent-looking cup contains alcohol.


What I really housed were these:


(Just in that corner is the nacho cheese. Mmm).

So Kyle. Kyle! Agh! Our friend Kyle came, who did the first Americorps year with me (we actually led the same team of kids, which naturally inspired tons of rumors about his love for me, and then later in the year his entirely fictional girlfriend they called Savannah. Hah man kids are so funny). Kyle is going to INDONESIA! His (actual) girlfriend got a Fulbright (!) and then he wanted to be with her (aw) and found himself a job, in the same town in Indonesia (hey hey!) and off he was going.

Crazy. Crazy. My friends are having such adventures! I think/hope I am due.

Anyway, Kyle brought an excellent salad that involved blueberries and walnuts and mint from his garden.


It was great.

Meanwhile, I made some stuff at home, because I was sick.. for days… Never took a whole sick day, and had so much comp time I didn’t even have to take official leave, but did a lot of leaving early. And I skipped the company picnic, which was pretty sweet.

So I had time to do some cookin’. We had some uh-mazing farmer’s market grape tomaotes, along with some oldish grapes. So I slow roasted them in the oven with olive oil and salt and pepper. Mm.

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I tossed those with various leftover rice things and herbs and… whatever. Kind of a rice salad. Or pilaf.

The main highlight was the cake! I love staying home from work and making cake. It’s wonderful.

Decorating was fun (that’s the- ridiculous, in my and many others’ opinion- Americorps motto!)


We spent the evening talking (a lot) eating (a lot) playing some sweet Frisbee, reminiscing… it was a good one! I forget how nice it is to really mark the end of something in a meaningful way. And night picnics are the best :)


John, Steve coworker MacNair’s husband, along with being really nice is a ridonkulously good photographer, and Chris, Steve’s coworker Erika’s incredibly annoying and rude husband has a really good camera. So we were playing with it, and various tricks you can do on the iPhone to make streamers of light in the background. I was in charge of the flash… that’s about all my camera is good for!


So that’s the end of something.

The here and now… is wiping me out.

This is the typical state of my desk.


I made it look like this. I was pleased.


For ten minutes or so. Anyway, long enough to drink that cup of tea.

And these kiddos come when their mom, who runs a food pantry, comes to the food bank, and make beautiful decorations for my office (along with that picture on the left, made by a high-schooler who’s one of our most devoted volunteers).

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But… it’s wiping me out. We’ll see.

Now for a beginning.

For a wee little while, I’ll have the best health care in the history of health care.

No deductible! No co pay!


(You should register too!)

Friday, August 17, 2012

bu-ut oh! those summer nights!

I kind of live for summer cookouts.

Did you know last Friday was National S’More Day? I hope you celebrated. I did.


Last Friday was great. Met friends and went to Bluemont Park, where we basically stumbled upon the Lost Dog 5K Series. Basically, the Lost Dog Cafe is a cafe that along with selling (amazing) sandwiches, also rescues, sponsors and finds homes for dogs, and created their own Lost Dog Rescue organization. Awesome, right? So they do this 5K series and it looks like SO MUCH FUN. Everyone meets up on Friday nights at a pretty park, enjoys all the fun race stuff (or, er, if you’re me, get a free chair massage and Larabar sample despite not running, nor ever planning to run, the race), and then runs a race for a great cause.

The best part is, DOGS CAN RUN THE RACE TOO, which meant runners raced past the starting line to the tune of “Who Let the Dogs Out” (along with actual barking). And those of us who were simply there to loiter around the park and toss around a frisbee still got to PLAY WITH THE PUPPIES WHO WERE UP FOR ADOPTION. Oh my Goddddddddddddddd if you are ever even slightly dissatisfied with any aspect of your life may I recommend picking up a puppy who then furiously licks your chin? Agh so great.

Then we had a spontaneous cookout. Lydia came too, and was in charge of arranging the cheese.


I grilled tofu.


Just sprinkled with Cajun seasoning. GREAT.

And potatoes (foil packet; olive oil salt and pepper), and WHOLE CARROTS. This is a tip my uncle Louie gave me. Grilling carrots whole is the bomb. You get the best of the cooked carrots and raw carrots world. You just roll them in a little olive oil (or a marinade, if you’re using one for meat or something) and then throw it on the grill whole. Like roasted carrots, the outside gets wonderfully caramelized and sweet and flavorful (win) and like raw carrots they still retain a wonderful no-mush crunch (win). Delish.


Also foil packet-ed zucchini (olive oil, salt and pepper), peppers (same), and okra (which I did with olive oil, cumin, and coriander- nice!).


Obviously my boyfriend ran out to buy 16 brats, too. Just in case.

And he bought smores fixin’s VERY IMPORTANT.

Then Lydia arranged them cause frankly these matters of arrangement and garnishing are important to her in a way they never ever will be for me. Thus her hand furiously arranging things in these first two pictures.

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Here we go: 


I had one. Then I had s’more.

Speaking of cookouts, my family does them well too. (Though there were not smores, there were- unpictured- brownies, key lime pie, and Pavlova. I ate all in copious quantities).

Do other peoples’ family events just involve ridiculous amounts of food? And is it all awesome? I hope so. That is something I love about my family.


In the appetizer department, I obviously went nuts on the above guacamole; white bean, garlic, and rosemary dip (so good Kathy!); and horseradish hummus from Trader Joe’s, which I always love and should just buy and/or make.

Once I made myself a proper plate, it was sort of eyes-rolled-back-in-my-head experience eating the watermelon, tomato, mint and goat cheese salad. So good my aunt Nan made it… then her sister arrived later… with the exact same dish. There is a reason, guys.


Note the blossoming black eyed Susans out the window in the background. I mean really. Can it always be summer?

Friday, August 10, 2012

the harvest

So I’m starting to understand how parents feel. Because I”ve been watching something grow, and it’s pretty amazing. I mean, as I see it, as a young person I can either work it into my budget to have children one day… or be able to afford to occasionally buy lunch from the Whole Foods salad bar. Not one without the other.

But watching something grow feels good. Bragging about its accomplishments.

Regular readers will recall that the tomatoes started (relatively) small, just a wimpy little sissy things held up with chopsticks.

But they had a serious growth spurt, and got some big grownup stakes to hold ‘em up.


And along with a massive growth spurt in the height of the plants, what were once buds became proper flowers.

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Cunningly held to the stake with the help of what are essentially giant bag ties. If we’re sticking with the (creepy?) children analogy, perhaps we could consider these the equivalent of braces?


Tragedy struck them in their youth- when we had our crazy DC weather, the gusts of windwere so violent that they blew two of the plants off the deck. One of the pots broke, the stems were bent every which way, and the soil was violently flung out.

I repotted them as securely as I possibly could. I sang them both “I Say A Little Prayer For You” and “Hey Jude”, because I’ve heard music is good for plants and because I’m fond of both of those songs and find they very encouraging.

And they just kept on truckin, man!

And what were once flowers popped out into these enchanting little green things.

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And yes, I did count them pretty regularly (and watered them evvvvery day). What was once two or three became eight, then fifteen, then twenty two (!) in pretty rapid succession.

And Holy Toledo they got bigger and bigger and bigger!


AND THEN THEY STARTED TURNING RED! I seriously can’t pick what was the most exciting point in the process (yes, seriously. Exciting.) but this might’ve been it.


At a certain point I had to consult the advice of more experienced gardeners regarding the harvest.


I took their advice until one (not actually either of the ones in the picture, suggesting some tomatoes simply mature at their own rate, like some humans) at last was ripe and beautiful.

It came right off the vine. Good sign!


I was so. proud. It looked totally heirloomy!


Since a single tomato was available to fill me, my sister, my boyfriend, and my mother… none of us got all that much. I made a salad with some (also local, though not grown by me) spinach and a simple vinaigrette (blackberry balsamic and olive oil).




If all it is is the magic of having grown something yourself, I want to grow all my own food. I think it was also just a really excellent varietal of tomatoes (thanks Lyddie!)- they are heirloom Abraham Lincolns. Anyway, they were wonderful- firm on the outside, juicy and sweet within, tasting incredibly flavorful and redolent of sunshine :)


Friday, August 3, 2012

if it aint broke

You know what there is something to be said for? Routine.

Knowing what breakfast will make you full. Knowing what ingredients you can combine to make a delicious lunch that’s easy to transport. Having the dinner you can throw together in ten minutes flat when you arrive home from work totally hangry.

A few of mine:

This summer, I’ve actually been taking an oats break. I love oats, but right now what’s doing it for me in a major way is shredded wheat. My winning combo is shredded wheat, milk and/or yogurt (my favorite is six tablespoons yogurt plus two tablespoons milk. Oddly specific but awesome texture for soaking into the cereal but retaining some toothsomeness), nuts (either almonds or walnuts), and banana (chopped fine for maximum flavor dispersion- I cut the banana in half the long way, then those halves in half).


Flavors are nice, texture is fab, and it keeps me just as full as oats with the same unprocessed, whole grain goodness.


Back when I was taking classes (eesh, remember that? I wonder if I’ll ever do that again…) I made this for I want to say four meals in a row.

Cook up some mushrooms and garlic in oil, then add tomatoes and cook down. When they’re nice and soft, add some white beans.


Then cook in some couscous (you won’t need to add as much water cause the tomatoes yield a bunch). Trader Joe’s whole wheat couscous is to die for (and whole-grain-phobes would never know, it tastes exactly the same as the white stuff).

So good, so satisfying.


For lunch, you can have it with some yogurt ‘n fruit if you’d like!


Or just straight up. Spices are optional, too. You could tweak this quite a bit as you fancied. Cumin? Caramelized onions? Oregano? Harissa? Olives? Sun dried tomatoes?

 DSC00478 Another AWESOME superfoods lunch- sardine salad! I like mine mooshed up with finely minced celery and carrot plus some yogurt and chili powder. Or mustard. Or anything. Sardines are so good.

Then you can eat it with crackers or whole-wheat flatbread ripped up in a haphazard fashion and baked until crispy (lazy crackers!)


SO FUN TO EAT. I also suspect that it’s inherently healthier for me to eat stuff a little at a time, drawing out the experience, focusing on flavors and textures. More satisfying!


My be-all and end-all home-alone-for-dinner meal is greens with a poached egg on top.


Oil and vinegar. Salt and pepper. Yesterday, today and tomorrow.