Thursday, June 30, 2011

You Win Some, You Lose Some

Yesterday, we attempted two recipes:  Blueberry-Lemon Bread, and homemade tortillas.

Daphne helped with the tortillas, and they were fun to make, but they didn't turn out very good.  They were not pretty or golden.  They were edible, but just barely.  Daphne liked eating them right away, plain and warm.
We were supposed to use them to make quesadillas for dinner, but that clearly wasn't going to work, so I made them into chicken and cheese tostadas:

They weren't terrible.  I am going to research this whole tortilla thing and try again sometime.

I had better luck with the blueberry lemon bread, which was more like a pound cake.  This recipe was easy and very tasty. 

It was a nice treat after the whole tortilla espisode.  We had it for dessert with a little whipped cream.  I needed to use up the last of our blueberries, and this was a good way to do it.  The lemon is what made it so good.  I recommend this one.

Meanwhile, summer is still going pretty well.  It hasn't been too hot.  And Daphne has been doing really well at swimming lessons.  We are going to SwimKids swim school, and it is GREAT.  She has learned more in seven days there than she did in a whole year at her once a week lessons at school.  She started last Monday at Level One (kids who won't really put their faces in) and now she's about to graduate to Level 5 (she can almost practically sorta swim).

They break the levels into realistic achievable goals, and the kids are motivated with a certificate and a choice from the treasure box when they pass each level.   Daphne even got a postcard in the mail from her coach when she passed to Level 4.  Today is the last day, and I'm hoping she gets a treasure.  She has one more skill to do to get to Level 5.  I hope we can get her in for more lessons later this summer while she has momentum.  I really can't believe how well she is doing.  I'm proud of her.

I can't believe this is the last day of June!  Summer is flying by so far.  Next week, Daphne and I are going to Indiana with G-Ma and Uncle Jeff for the 4th of July.  It should be a lot of fun.  We're having a big cookout for the 4th, and we'll be celebrating three of my Uncles' birthdays, including Danny's, who is doing REALLY well.  We are also planning to try to take the kids to Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana.  SANTA CLAUS!  That's the name of the town!  Daphne is going to be so excited.  I haven't told her yet in case we don't get to go.  Sadly, Kev and G-Pa won't be able to go with us.  I wish they could.

Well, the breakfast dishes aren't going to do themselves.  I'm off to have a Thursday.  I hope yours is good!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Monday - Beans and Insight

Last night, we had Daphne's farmer's market yellow beans.  I let her snap off the ends.
Then I steamed them and added some basil and garlic oil.  They were not bad, and Daphne ate them up.
So, the farmer's market experiment was very successful.  At least this time.

My friend Emily pointed out that maybe the same strategies I'm using on Daphne actually worked on me, although it was accidental.  I was, for most of my life, a VERY picky selective eater.  (Selective sounds so much better, don't you think?)  When I got married and had to start cooking things besides rice and frozen waffles, I pretty much HAD to start trying new things.  It was a slow process, but I eat a much larger variety of things than I used to, and I'm not quite as reluctant to try things.  There are things from my previous "bad list" that I love now, like mushrooms and eggplant and oatmeal, for example.  There are things that I tolerate now, like asparagus and green peppers and onions.  I eat salad now.  And I like it. That's a big thing.  You can ask Kev.  Still, though, there are things I just can't like no matter how many times and different ways I've tried.  Like tomatoes.  I just don't like them.  I want to like them, but I don't.  But at least I've tried.  I even tried one of my kryptonites - mustard - recently.  It was disgusting, but I tried it.   Anyway, the point Emily was making, and she's probably right, is that just being more invested in the choosing and cooking of foods has made me more adventurous about it.  So, thanks, Kev.  If it wasn't for you, I'd probably still be ordering sesame chicken from the New Big Wong every Wednesday and having cereal for dinner a couple times a week.  Not that there's anything wrong with cereal for dinner.  But maybe not a couple times a week.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Scenes from the Weekend

We didn't stray too far from home this weekend, and it was nice.
We tried to put our farmer's market items and recent haul of blueberries to good use.
Friday, we had cherries with vanilla whipped cream for dessert. Simple and so good.
Saturday night, we had dinner with friends. There was delicious grilled meat and corn on the cob. You can't beat fresh corn in the summertime. AND there was homemade oreo ice cream. Yep.
Sunday morning, there were blueberry pancakes (Kerbey Lane!). Banana ones for Daphne. For some reason, she's against the blueberry ones. Especially when she's in a mood.

After breakfast, Kev took Daphne on a nice long hike to improve her mood:

and so I could have some time to tackle this:

The office before (above) was a disorganized disaster with piles of stuff everywhere.
The office after (below) is nice and neat.

Now that I can get to my desk, I have big plans. I have decided that when Daphne has summer camp in July, I am going to have my own summer camp here at home. But more on that later.

I also cleaned out Daphne's closet this weekend, and started working on the closet in the master bathroom. Thanks to Emily's awesome blog for the great inspiration.

Sunday night, there was grilled meat:

and roasted summer vegetables:

All of the food we ate last night came from the Farmer's Market. That makes me happy.

So it was a good weekend of food and cleaning. Daphne tried a couple new foods, and the house is getting in shape. Now it's Monday. I'm eating breakfast:

and a bunny just hopped past the window.
It's quiet here. Daphne is still asleep. And my coffee tastes extra good for some reason.
So, time to get back to the routine. Laundry, errands, swimming lessons, and so forth. But I intend to spend a little time at my desk today. Because I can.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Now That's-a Ravioli!

I finally made ravioli. It was a team effort and a long process.
On Wednesday afternoon, I made the chicken marsala filling.

On Wednesday evening, Kev got out the pasta-making equipment and we decided to try it out.
We ended up with stiff but useable dough and made enough pasta sheets to make about 20 ravioli.
Then, the dough dried out. D'oh! You've got to keep it covered. And the recipe didn't call for olive oil. It clearly needed olive oil. Live and learn.
We let Daphne knead some dough (if the cook it, they will eat it).

Here comes the first pasta sheet:

On Thursday morning, I made more dough. I added olive oil this time and kept it covered.
That's it in the top picture up there. It worked out much better.

I filled the sheets with the filling:

and I let Daphne do the pressing (if they cook it, etc.):

Voila! The ravioli!
(Is there an Italian phrase like"voila"?)

With the extra dough, I made some fettuccine noodles:

I made them into nests and froze them for later:

Last night, I made the mushroom cream sauce.

Here it is, all put together:

Kev's first word after tasting it was "wow."

Daphne didn't want to eat it. Of course. She pushed her chair away from the table. So, Kev and I ignored her and started talking about how good it was and what a good chef Daphne was because she helped make it after all. Next thing I knew, she tried it, loved it, and asked for more.

At dinner, there was a long discussion about a variety of possible ravioli fillings for next time. Nutella was mentioned. More than once.

There will be a lot more ravioli in our future.

I TOTALLY recommend the filling and sauce recipes. Thank you, Tyler Florence.

And I recommend the KitchenAid pasta attachment and the Norpro ravioli press. Both work very well, and it's a very easy process once you get the hang of it. It was very silly of me to fear the ravioli.

I can now check "make ravioli" off my list.

This morning, Daphne and I made an impromptu visit to Eagle Tree for more blueberries.

Some are in the freezer. Some will be put in Sunday morning pancakes. I still haven't made my favorite blueberry pudding cake. Some, we'll just eat. Maybe I don't hate summer after all. Check with me in August.

This afternoon, I emailed the Chambers of Commerce of several east coast towns, including Nantucket, to ask for travel guides and brochures. I must not hate summer TOO much, because I'm already thinking ahead to the next one.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Farmer's Market Experiment

Aaahh. Here is Daphne, trying a new food and giving it a thumb's up. This is a rare thing these days. Don't get me wrong. She's really a pretty good eater. Lately, though, getting her to try anything new is a battle. But today, I got her to try two things she's never had, with a promise to try one more.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

It all started this afternoon when I was checking in with one of my favorite blogs about cooking - Dinner: A Love Story. Today's post was all about getting kids to try new foods. You should really go read it because it's a very interesting and entertaining post, but if you don't, I'll give you the gist. The writer of the post, in an attempt to get his kids to try new foods, gives them their own money to spend as they wish at the farmer's market and the grocery store as long as they promise to eat what they buy. The theory is similar to the "if they cook it, they will eat it" theory that I'm always going on about. If kids are in some way invested in the food, they are more likely to give it a try. And it totally worked. "I MUST TRY THIS, TOO," I thought.

About the time I finished reading the article, Daphne came downstairs after a failed nap attempt. The wheels started turning. Conveniently, there is a farmer's market down the street from my house every Wednesday afternoon. And conveniently, I needed eggs (because I am finally feeling like I have my act together enough to make ravioli with my new pasta machine - but that's another post). So, I said to Daphne, "Hey, I have a deal for you. Let's take a walk to the farmer's market so I can get eggs, and I'll give you five dollars to buy whatever you want. But it has to be something you haven't had before and you have to promise to try it."

Her immediate response was, "No way, Mom. I am NOT taking that deal."

A few minutes went by.

"OK, Mom, I'll take the deal IF you wear something fancy to the Farmer's Market."

Um, OK.  Weird, but OK.   "How about if I wear that necklace you made for me? It's fancy."

And a deal was made. I put on the necklace:

Daphne got her five dollars:

And we hit the farmer's market.

The first things we checked out were some interesting looking squashes. "They're so pretty!" I said. "They are really sweet," said the produce lady. "No thanks," said Daphne. Defeat.

But then, we saw the cherry samples. Daphne has never had cherries except the ones that come on ice cream sundaes. She wanted to try one! Success!

And just like that, she happily spent three of her five dollars on some beautiful sweet cherries.

"Can I get something else, Mom?"

"You sure can! You still have two dollars."

So, she picked yellow beans (she's only ever had green ones).

And just for fun, I got the pretty pattypan squash and told her I was going to try something new, too.

She was so proud buying those beans all by herself.

When we got home, I washed a couple of the beans, and she gobbled them up. "These are SO yummy!" And that brings us back to that first picture up there. Daphne, eating her first yellow bean, and giving it the thumbs up. Granted, yellow beans and cherries are not the most exotic things she could have picked, but they were new and exciting to her. Baby steps. And she even promised to try some of the squash when I cook it.

So thank you, Dinner: A Love Story, for the great idea. It worked. And it was fun.

Sadly, there were no eggs at the market today, so I had to get some at Safeway. Ravioli has been made. Tomorrow, it will be eaten. I will let you know how it goes. There will be pictures either way.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Long Way to Go...

Here is my Nantucket Jar.* It has $1.95 in it. I gathered up the loose change at the bottom of my purse. At this rate, I'll get to go to Nantucket for my 65th birthday. I better start looking around for stuff I can sell.

* I realize it probably would have been more clever to have a "Nantucket Bucket," but a jar will have to do.

There Once was a Place Called Nantucket

Thanks to a tip from Kev's sister Darlene, I did some research on Nantucket. This is the place I have been dreaming about. I want to go there. I might want to LIVE there. There are sailboats and seafood and biking and hiking and shops and all kinds of stuff. (Photo above was swiped from some lucky person's flickr page). Nantucket is the place for me! I'm starting a vacation jar TODAY. Thanks, Darlene!

PS. Here is where I want to stay.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Today, I have been thinking a lot about going on vacation. It's been a long time since we've been on a vacation that wasn't visiting family. Not that there's anything wrong with visiting family, but you know what I mean. Sometimes, you just need to go AWAY and do NOTHING in a quiet place. This photo was taken in Maine in 2003 - probably my very most favorite all time vacation. We accomplished a good mixture of "doing stuff" and "doing nothing." There were whales. There were loons. There was lobster bisque. It was perfect.

I have been telling Kev that I want to go on a vacation, sort of like the Maine one, with lots of down time, perhaps sitting on a porch looking at sailboats while drinking coffee and knitting, then walking to the local village for delicious fresh seafood. Or staying on the porch and grilling some chicken. Is there a place where you can do that? Kev said maybe it's Cape Cod. But I don't know anything about Cape Cod. Could it be Martha's Vinyard? I don't know anything about that either. I think maybe we need to go back to Maine to find the perfect place. But not a super touristy place. Less people, more loons.

Our challenge is Daphne, of course. Kev and I could sit on a porch and watch sailboats all day long and be perfectly content, but the shortest and squirmiest member of our family wouldn't put up with that for very long. There would have to be something to DO. The whole porch/sailboat scene sorta loses its magic when someone is whining "I'm BORED" in the background.  I reckon we could bring the Legos and the DS.

Any ideas?

Oh well. This summer is pretty much full, so we have at least a year to figure this all out. Daphne will be six next summer. Maybe she will be able to sit still longer than 30 seconds by then.

Places I want to go:

  • The unknown place with the porches and sailboats   NANTUCKET!
  • Maine
  • Dallas/Austin
  • Montreal
  • Brooklyn, or
  • The Red Caboose Motel
...but that's another story.

Father's Day Weekend - In Cinemascope

I found a new photo editing toy and put all the pictures from this post in cinema-scope.  Just because. Go here to play around.

Father's Day weekend started with a visit to Breaux Vinyard for their annual Cajun Festival.  It was a really nice day to sit under a tree and enjoy being outside. 

We got to sample some wine, eat Cajun food, and take Daphne on a hayride.  Can someone please remind me why hayrides are supposed to be fun?  I was hot and itchy and couldn't wait for it to be over.  I don't think Daphne loved it either.  But still.  In all, it was a good day out.  I have to say, though, I think I enjoy the wineries more when there is not a big event going on.

Saturday afternoon, I used the last of the blueberries in a clafoutis.  It was very tasty and not overly sweet.  Time to get more blueberries.

On Sunday morning, Daphne and I surprised Kev with a Daddy and Me cooking class at Cookology.  They made Crispy Chocolate French Toast and Candied Bacon while I wandered around the mall.  Alone.  I was happy that Daphne, who is completely against French Toast, cooked some, tried it, and loved it.  I've said it before, if they cook it, they will eat it.  I think Kev really enjoyed the class.  Cookology is such a great place.  I want to do one of the adult classes sometime.  Hint hint.  If anyone needs any birthday ideas.

 In the afternoon, we drove down to Manassas for a cookout, minigolf, and ice cream at Nathan's Dairy Bar.

It's been forever since I've had a cheeseburger, and it was great.  All the food was good.  The golf was very entertaining (Daphne has a unique style) and the ice cream was a perfect ending.  That Nathan's is apparently the place to be in Manassas.  I swear the line was at least 50 people long, but it went fast, and since it was Father's Day, all the daddies got free ice cream.  I think Leesburg needs a Nathan's.  Maybe that's my ticket to not having to go back to the world of Speech Pathology.  

So, Happy Father's Day to Kev and my dad and all the other good daddies out there.  I hope yours was as good as ours.

One other quick item of good news:  my Uncle Danny got sprung from his physical rehab facility for a day, to go to my Aunt Kathy's for his own Father's Day cookout.  He said he felt like he was getting out of jail.  I think the field trip went well and cheered him up quite a bit.  Maybe this means he'll be able to go home soon.  Yay!

Now it's Monday.  Daphne starts her new swimming class today, and we're going to the library because they're kicking off their summer reading club program.  There is laundry to do, messes to clean, and groceries to buy.  Plus, I want to start deep-cleaning a room a la Emily.  I need to make a list.  I think that will help. 

It's supposed to get pretty hot again this week.  All the more reason to stay inside and clean.  Happy Monday!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Little Inspiration

My friend Emily, who is coming to visit me in August (YAY!) has started a new project.  She has eleven rooms in her house, and eleven weeks of summer vacation.  So, she is completely cleaning and organizing one room per week so her house will be perfect (or as perfect as a house can be with two kids and a puppy) by the time school starts.  In order to keep herself from giving up, she is blogging about it.  You can check it out here:  11Rooms11Weeks.  I am totally inspired.  To hire her to do MY house when she's done. 

(Kidding.  I'm TOTALLY going to do this.  In the fall, though.  When my sidekick is at school.)

The Zen of Blueberries and a Big Rock Show Review

Yesterday, we got up early and headed to Eagle Tree Farm and Vinyard with some preschool friends. Goal: Pick as many blueberries as possible.

We arrived at the farm just as the only other people there were leaving, so we had the place all to ourselves. There was a pond with geese, a little house, and rows and rows of blueberry bushes. It reminded me of England.

We got straight to work, and so did our helpers:

Blueberry picking is a cakewalk compared to strawberry picking. The berries are at just the right height. No bending, no stooping. It was easy to get into a groove. It was quiet, peaceful, and relaxing. And did I mention the temperature was about 70? PERFECT.

Soon, we had about three quarts, so we went over to a picnic table to put our money in the money box (it's all honor system at Eagle Tree), stopped Temple Hall Farm for a short visit to the playground, and headed back home. This was truly one of the most fun mornings I've had in a long time. The farm was beautiful, the weather was awesome, the kids were good, and the blueberries were delicious and plentiful. And I have big plans for them. This morning, we had them in pancakes. There will be more freezer jam as soon as I can get some pectin. Blueberry Pudding Cake is in our future, as well as a possible pie. And there may be a blueberry ice cream experiment before it's all over. We will probably need to go back to the farm for more to accomplish all this. No one will need to twist my arm.

Now, it's time to completely shift gears, because yesterday EVENING was all about rock. My brother and I went to Wolf Trap for the big Elvis Costello show:

And a big show it was. As you can see, there was a giant wheel on stage which was spun by members of the audience to pick the songs to be performed. He played for about 2 1/2 hours. Highlights: Party Girl, Girl (by the Beatles), Beyond Belief, a cool slowed-down version of Pump It Up, and part of Purple Rain. I have seen him several times, but I think this was my favorite show. He looked and sounded great. I'm so glad we didn't miss it. (See the full set list here).

Wolf Trap is a pretty cool place. The sound isn't bad for an outdoor venue. A nice feature is the legroom. When people are going in and out of the rows of seats, there is enough room for them to get by without everyone having to stand up. I guess they made up for that by squeezing the seats next to each other together as closely as possible, though. I was seated next to an unfortunately smelly large man, whose right arm cascaded over into my space, making me VERY uncomfortable. I was happy when the people to my brother's right left half-way through the show and I could change seats. No more smelly man! Aaahhh. Things were much more enjoyable.

One last quick item: I tried a new food this week. We went to the Shoes Secret Garden on Tuesday night, and got these goat cheese stuffed peppadews. I was nervous, but I tried them and they were GOOD! It proves you can't go wrong with goat cheese.

Summer is still going well, and I am trying to take advantage of this awesome weather, because I know it can't last. A big Father's Day weekend coming up, with more activities planned. I shall report back soon. Until then, Happy Father's Day to all the good nice Daddies out there!