Tuesday, February 19, 2008

this weekend

Stayed out in the 'doahs with friends for the holiday weekend and hike Old Rag in an ice storm. 

and made pizza from scratch for the first time from this recipe: http://www.accidentalhedonist.com/patrick/?title=adventures_in_pizza_or_from_interesting_&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1


Sunday, January 6, 2008

Catching Up

Dec 6, 2007

I’m looking forward to a different Christmas ritual this year. As N and I are becoming a family, it’s been a bit of an endeavor to figure out how to join each of our Christmas traditions. Rather than melding or trading off or trying something new, we have spent the last several years trying to pack it all in, with a trip to Chicago before Christmas, traveling on to Seattle and Spokane on or after Christmas. Christmas day itself is always a little wrenching for each of us. Do we spend the day apart, participating separately in the rituals we have always had with our families? But aren’t we a family now? So does one of us have to give up our Christmas day tradition? Clearly some kind of compromise, something new, is needed here.

We’ve also been feeling increasingly squeamishness about the growing consumerism of the holiday, and the annual struggle of finding some material thing for people whom we love, but have everything they need. Are we spending enough? Are we spending too much? Can we find some more meaningful way of celebrating our love and community?

So we’re trying something new this year. We’re taking all that money we’ve been spending on airfare and gifts each year and directing it instead towards a shared experience with my Mom and stepdad and N’s parents – in France! This is a consensus destination and we’re all looking forward to sharing a house in a small village in Provence, eating great food, drinking great wine, exploring and sharing time together. (Looking forward to seeing my dad in New Zealand in the Spring.)

Dec 24.

It’s beautiful here in Provence. Seeing the vineyards and olive groves, even in winter, I can see what Van Gogh saw here a century and a half ago. We shared the perfect feast for lunch today, bought mostly at farmers market:

  • Fresh baguette
  • Cheese – a wheel of goat cheese rolled in herbs du province, and a rich caramelly gruyere;
  • Fig jam;
  • A bowl of green olives – I think they’re called picholine. Super rich and buttery;
  • Saucisson – salty, fatty cured sausage;
  • Dates;
  • Tangerines;
  • Smoked almonds;
  • And last, but not least, chocolate!

Dec 26.

Christmas in France. We’ve been enjoying spending time with our families, sharing meals, conversation and adventures. New traditions are a work in progress. Can’t help but feel a sense of (self-imposed) pressure and expectation to make this day meaningful.

Traditions unmarked this year: Christmas day without the gift exchange felt a teensy bit, um, compassless. And of course, in France, we don’t have those little tokens that we associate with Christmas, like the Styrofoam Santa, the little knit Santa doorknob decorators that jingle every time you open the door; putting gift bows on the kitties; familiar ornaments that we’ve hung on the tree each year as long as we can remember; visiting with my dad.

Same as ever: spending time together, which is the thing we look forward to more than anything each year; and a special meal.

New things to appreciate: combining families; discovering new places together; enjoying local wine; learning about local Christmas customs (Santa doesn’t some down the chimney here – he climbs a rope through your window; decorations and marketing are significantly more modest here; duck is typical for a Christmas meal); I made a Christmas ornament with my mom out of yarn and a couple of toothpicks.

Dec 31 – Paris.

Today must be national Go To a Museum Day. Lines at Musee d’ orsay snaked through the whole plaza and trailed around the block. We went instead to Musee do quai Branly, a relatively new anthropological museum of African, Asian, and Native American art. Pretty stunning – especially the African art. I haven’t seen anything like it in the U.S.

Jan 2.

First day back at work and I’m celebrating a promotion. I’m now the national policy coordinator for my team. Which means I do more of the work that I have liked over the last year and less of the work that I haven’t liked so much. And I get an office with a door and a window to myself, at least until our organization grows so large that everyone has to share.

Jan 5.

I came across an interesting exercise of reflection on a blog I like - Superhero Journal - the other day.

She challenged her readers to a new years’ ritual to reflect on the previous year to allow us to complete this year and move on to the new year with a greater sense of newness and possibility. Her questions:

1. What do you want to acknowledge yourself for in regard to 2007?
(What did you create? What challenges did you face with courage and strength? What promises did you keep to yourself? What brave choices did you make? What are you proud of?)

2. What is there to grieve about 2007?
(What was disappointing? What was scary? What was hard? What can you forgive yourself for?)

3. What else do you need to say about the year to declare it complete?

The final step is to consider your primary focus for the year to come. What is your primary intention or theme for 2008? Is it the year of joy? the year of self-care? the year of partnership? Stand up and say it proud, "2008 is my year of...."

I have to admit that I don’t like what I came up with when I did this exercise. I have lamely battled bad habits and lacked the discipline to consistently practice good ones. At work I have more often simply gotten through the day rather than seeking opportunities for challenge and growth.

I have given love to my sweetheart, kitties, family and friends, but I didn’t give as much as I could have, and I have neglected and disappointed people I care about by failing to return calls, keep in touch, being irresolute about where we will live, and neglecting Christmas rituals with those with whom I did not spend the holiday.

In general I feel like I have missed opportunities for connection and growth. It may sound like I’m being hard on myself, but I have felt a lot more proud about many other years in the past than I have about this one.

But the blessing of facing this truth and feeling this regret is that I do feel a sense of possibility to change it and dedicate some time to reflect on priorities for the coming year. I know I won’t be perfect, but I can embrace this opportunity for a new beginning and try to rededicate myself with purpose towards greater discipline and courage and effort in hopes of greater growth and connection.

"The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning." -George Baker (quoted from Superhero Journal)

Here’s to 2008!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Gratitude

Today is my 32nd birthday and our press staffer took this head shot of me for a magazine interview i did recently.

We had a great time in Poquoson; we ate lots of tasty food and hung out with some adorable kids and well-loved family.

And we decided to extend Thanksgiving to every day of the year.  After reading Give Thanks. It's Good for You: Research on Gratitude Shows Evidence of Mental Health Payoffs in the Post last week, we decided to make a tradition of saying a sort of grace at the beginning of our dinners together by sharing something that we're grateful about that day.

Last night I was grateful for the time I had over the weekend to get caught up on housework so I could feel more grounded at home and was also grateful for my sweetheart making dinner and doing lots of chores.  What are you grateful for?

Here you can take a quiz on how gratitud-ful you are. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I'm a movie star!

Someone in my office had a thanksgiving potluck last week where everyone was encouraged to bring local food.  And they made video about it.  I appear briefly in the middle.

We are looking forward to heading down to Poquoson, VA, (where N's extended family is based) for turkey day tomorrow.  It should be a real feast, with both turkey AND ham and several different kinds of pies and cakes.  There will almost certainly also be sweet potatoes with marshmallows baked on top.  I'm hoping for corn pudding!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Eat Well

"Few things in life are more intimate than eating. When I eat a tomato, I am transforming it into my body. I take it into my mouth; my saliva and gastric juices break it down into nutrients that feed my muscles, my bones, my brain, my skin. Nor am I eating only a tomato: I’m eating the sun, soil, and rain that grew it. I’m also communing with the workers who planted the seed, cultivated the plant, and picked the fruit. Eating, even eating alone, is always a form of communion." - Amy Assinger

Just read a phenomenal article by Wendell Berry about eating consciously. Many good things in it worth talking about (and perhaps I will get to more of them later). But one stuck with me.

He pointed out that so much of our current industrial food culture of heavily processed food is marketed to us as faster, easier, implying that it will allow us more time for greater quality of life.

But what life is this that they're talking about? What is it that we rush through our day for, rush through cooking, eating, commuting and chores. We hurry through our meals to get to what?

What are we hurrying through? Isn't this my life? Preparing this food. Sharing this meal. This laundry. Listening to this song. This bus ride. Writing down this thought. Reading this paragraph. This very one. Right now.

Enjoying food is such a great way to connect with the world outside ourselves - with the earth, the farmers and workers in our community, the people we share our meals with.

Why are we rushing through that?

-------------

I threw together dinner tonight with leftover groceries and made up a recipe that was super tasty and thought I would share it.

Wild Rice with Autumn Veggies (serves 2)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 c wild rice
  • 1c shitake mushrooms cut into halves or thirds
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped small
  • 1 acorn squash
  • a few cloves of minced garlic
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. cut the squash in half, scoop out seeds, and bake face down on an oiled cookie sheet at 350 for an hour.
  2. cook the rice in chicken broth for 50 minutes (bring to boil then turn down to low with a tight fitting lid).
  3. about ten minutes before the rice is done, saute the onion in some olive oil until it is good and soft and beginning to caramelize.
  4. add the mushrooms and garlic.
  5. scoop the insides of the squash into the frying pan in bite size spoonfuls (tongs can be useful for handling the hot squash).
  6. fold in the rice.
  7. add salt and pepper to taste (I like lots).
  8. voila! eat!

Monday, November 19, 2007

menu brainstorm

I've been toying with the idea of starting a catering company, with a niche in local, sustainably produced food. I catered a party last month for 125 people and had fun with it, though learned that it is a huge amount of work to pull these things off.

I'm not ready to give up my day job, whatwith the steady salary and health care (not to mention the 9-to-5 workday), but I haven't given up on the idea. I haven't been doing very aggressive marketing, but someone who was at the last event tracked me down and I now have my second client.

So I am planning a luncheon menu for 25 in mid-December. She requested latkes and applesauce, and asked me to put together the rest of the menu based on what's available around here at that time of year. Here's what I have so far:

- latkes with applesauce and sour cream
- curried coleslaw with apples and raisins
- apple gingerbread upside down cake

I 'm struggling with the main dish here. I think that a pork tenderloin roast on this menu would be divine, but doubt that the large number of Jewish folks at the party would think so. Am thinking wild mushroom pierogies, but worry that the pierogies and latkes will be to many starches. Mushroom soup? Does anyone ever want soup at a catered event? Fritata?

Perhaps if I go to bed I will dream up a solution.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Big time



Did I tell you that my sweetheart testified before Congress last week? You can see a video of him testifying (about 5 minutes long) if you click the archive link at the Financial Service Committee website. You may choose to forward through the Congress Members speeches by fast forwarding to around 11:30 minutes in.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

veto victory?

Someone asked me if Congress' recent overturning President Bush's veto of the Water Resources Development Act was related to my work.

It is loosely related, but I didn't work on this bill at all.  WRDA covers water infrastructure like rerouting rivers and building levees.  It's not directly linked to what I work on, which is more like making sure that the water that you and I get in our homes is safe to drink, and that the water we flush down our toilets is clean before it lands in our lakes and rivers. 

Congress' passage of WRDA is good in that it provides funding for water, but complicated because the projects that the bill funds are often pork, and do not fully consider the environmental impact associated with them.  The bill funds lots of stuff we wouldn't like and didn't do enough to reform the Army Corp of Engineers' project planning process.

This guy offers an interesting analysis (though he is a little harsh on "environmentalists" - since when does Nature Conservancy represent the broad spectrum of enviros?).


Monday, November 12, 2007

best lentil soup ever

By request:

This is adapted slightly from a Cooks Illustrated recipe.

Fragrant Lentil Soup

Makes about 2 quarts, serving 4 to 6

3 slices bacon (about 3 ounces), cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1 large onion , chopped fine (about 1 1/2 cups)

2 medium carrots , peeled and chopped medium (about 1 cup)

2 stalks celery

3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 can diced tomatoes (14 1/2 ounces), drained

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves

1 cup lentils (7 ounces), rinsed and picked over

½ cup barley

½-3/4 teaspoon table salt

ground black pepper

1/2 cup dry white wine

4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 1/2 cups water

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves

  • Fry bacon in large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp, 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Add onion carrots and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 2 minutes.
  • Add garlic, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and cayenne; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Stir in tomatoes, bay leaf, and thyme; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Stir in lentils, barley, salt, and pepper to taste; cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until vegetables are softened and lentils have darkened, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Uncover, increase heat to high, add wine, and bring to simmer.
  • Add chicken broth and water; bring to boil, cover partially, and reduce heat to low.
  • Simmer until lentils are tender but still hold their shape, 30 to 35 minutes; discard bay leaf.
  • Partially puree with a hand blender, or puree 3 cups soup in blender until smooth, then return to pot; stir in lemon juice and heat soup over medium-low until hot, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in 2 tablespoons cilantro and serve, garnishing each bowl with some of remaining cilantro.


Saturday, November 3, 2007

Yummmmm!


So much good food in Seattle!

Our first day there was focused almost entirely on eating! For our first meal , we checked out the Eat Well Guide to find a tasty place to get some good organic, local food. We went to The Portage Bay Cafe and found it to be a great place to catch up with old friend, Jeremy. After a walk around Greenlake, we went to Nana's Soup House for some super tasty corn chowder and clam chowder. There is just no place in DC where we can soak up cheerful friendly service, warm, hardwood atmosphere, and hearth-y food that makes Seattle a great place to eat.

For dinner, we departed a bit from this model at elemental - more reminiscent of New York eating. The service is more serious than cheerful, the atmosphere sparse (when the senses are absorbed in food and drink this good, who notices the atmosphere?).

For a Friday night dinner, we had to get in line at 4:30 to be sure to get one of 4 or 5 tables in the restaurant. Co-owner Phred then tended to us and our small posse of friends and family for the evening. He welcomed us with a cocktail and some fragrant popcorn (truffle oil?) which was an indicator of the indulgence to come. He then proceeded with a parade of pleasing plates, each paired with perfect wine accompaniments... Albondingas on a pita cracker with spicy tomato sauce... squash soup that smelled like butter... sable fish with soba noodles... and so many more, each paired with a tasty wine (or two). The food, the wine, the company - all of it was divine.

Other highlights from our trip include catching up with Nora on a walk along the canal in Fremont, time with family, several hours spent at the cozy neighborhood bookstore and multiple meals at the Honeybear cafe and the pub downstairs. And perhaps best of all, this hike on the trail to Mt. Forgotten.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hi there!

Whoa - the pressure of what to say in the first few words of this blog is big! But I want this to be a place where I can just post thoughts without putting such high expectations on myself, so I'm letting it go.

I'm starting this so I can share more of my day-to-day life with people I don't get to talk to everyday.

I'm so tempted to catch you all up with what I've been up to, but instead I think I'll just start this blog with today. N and I are recovering from a very busy few weeks! We've both had a lot of hecticism at work. But tomorrow we're going to Seattle to visit family and friends and I am counting down the seconds!

We haven't had time to plan our visit and I have failed to let many people know that we will be in town. Nonetheless, I am VERY MUCH looking forward to seeing people I love, inhaling Seattle's damp air, and eating good food. I'm especially looking forward to dinner on Friday at Elemental. If you live in Seattle and haven't eaten here yet, then you're really missing out. More detail on what exactly you're missing out on will be coming after Friday.

We passed out Halloween candy to trick-or-treaters tonight. I bought 150 pieces of candy and we ran out by 8:30. Ours is a popular neighborhood for kids from all over the city.

Time to get packing!