Friday, July 31

pay it forward

after a turbulent journey and a turbulent flight, it was a happy surprise discovering this adorable gift on the foyer table, awaiting my return. it's oh so cute, and perfectly sized for holding voter registration cards (primaries are just around the corner), and for doodling in staff meetings (some of my fav u.s. presidents were meeting doodlers).

thanks to gingerale, who selected me to continue the pay it forward fun, all the wonderful craft projects I've intended to attempt are tumbling around in my head. giving fun handmade gifts is always more fun than receiving, no? the idea behind the movement is — you know, like in the kevin spacey movie — for someone receiving a gift, rather than paying back the giver, to select 5 new people to whom handmade gifts will be sent. those folks, then, are to select 5 more people for the pass-it-on festivities. it's the kevin bacon game in reverse, where everyone is connected by the end. or a chain letter, but better.

so here's your chance: leave a comment and (whether you blog or not), if I can come up with 5 people, they'll receive a handmade something in the mail. in the meantime, I'll be here doodling ideas for gifties!

jiggity jog

there is never enough time. what begins with the best intentions sometimes must be reconsidered based on surrounding expectations and the limitations of human frailty. I headed home wednesday morning with a heavy heart, over all that was left undone, all that had to be abandoned. it would be nice to wallow a little in the disappointment of a trip gone askew, but the simple truth is where there's not time for finishing, there's surely not time for regret. at least not when it can be said that love was given with no strings, and the limitations were not my own to control.

time spent with littlest sis was really wonderful, and there will be more photos and recipes to post, that didn't make it up during the trip. there's just never enough time. least I got some quality time in with my secret boyfriend. I would totally leave b for tj. it's ok though. he'd probably leave me for tj, too.

Monday, July 27

missed connections

{phoenix with crutches ~ missed connections}

b & I routinely turn to the end of the chronicle, to a shot in the dark, hoping for some colorful vignettes. sophie blackall's blog, missed connections, illustrates the stories of the nyc faction of random not-quite-deal-makers, in a way b & I have yet to master. and it's kind of awesome.

weekend piccys

{une seule fraise}

{yipes! stripes!}

{quiet weekend}

{double delight}

{acme breakfast}

{champagne grapes: worth the extra effort}

{dusky ornamental}

{b-day/post-op celebratory cake}

{party table}

Saturday, July 25

lemon pepper pappardelle with fagioli & greens

I do so love traderj's. although the native soil yields without invitation, the household refrigerator was less generous. opening the crisper sadly revealed a few heads of celery and some defeated salad mixes. not likely to provide much in the way of whole-food sourced vitamins. yesterday was the first opportunity for a veggie scouting expedition, and we returned with loads of brightly colored goodies...candy-colored peppers, dark berries, and glossy greens.

tj's also provided some tempting lemon scented pappardelle, which was the base for last night's dinner. the fiber-filled greens and beans meant a very filling, healthy, near-vegetarian meal.

lemon pepper pappardelle with fagioli & greens
serves 4-6 (?)

1 splash olive oil
4 oz pancetta, cubed
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large bag of chopped greens, or 1-2 bunches kale/chard/savoy/whatever
28 oz can chopped tomatoes (that one brand of organic roasted tomatoes are pretty awesome, second only to home-canned) or 6-8 med fresh romas
1 can white beans, drained
salt & pepper and pinch of red pepper flakes
8-12 oz dry pasta (gemelli/pappardelle/whatever)
fresh basil or parsley, if you've got it
and a few ladles-full, starchy pasta water

in a large skillet, brown pancetta in olive oil over med-low, to render fat. drain all but 1 tbsp if that sort of thing is a worry. add garlic, pepper flakes and onion, stirring until golden and fragrant. add washed, chopped greens, tossing to coat in oil. ohyeah...very hearty greens like collards (one cookbook calls them "assertive greens") may need a little parboiling in salted water first. more tender greens or younger chard may be added directly with no extra prep. add tomatoes and continue folding greens into liquid, adding a ladle or two of pasta water if more moisture is required. cover and simmer until greens are near done (colorful and al dente, but not excessively chewy). add drained beans and fold into sauce, again adding more liquid if necessary, to thicken sauce. taste and adjust seasoning. pasta should cook to not-quite-al-dente and finish cooking the last minute or so in sauce. dust with parmesan once plated.

Friday, July 24


{neglected lemons}

home in california for a week, my focus has been shifted to what others eat. my purpose here is to assist in my dad's recovery from major surgery, and to help my littlest sis develop some eating strategies for boarding school this year (she's also recently had oral surgery, so healthy is presently secondary to squashy). without scientific training (though there's definitely research out there), it just seems logical that what we eat can either aid in the body's recovery or hinder it. meals at dad's hospital were almost inedible (clearly not the low-sodium diet), when delivery was managed at all. gourmet delicacies are available in the bleachers at a giants ballgame, but hospitals still serve gruel? ouch.

{as gardening was last on dad's mind this year, these are born of seeds from last-year's tomatoes, happily growing wild}

it won't be at all painful working in a wonderfully appointed kitchen. neither will our happy placement in america's produce aisle be too uncomfortable. upon my arrival yesterday, instant dinner inspiration was provided by a quick trip into the garden, where a half-dozen tomatoes dropped into my hands, an enormous lemon fell at my feet, and a few small zucchini were easily pulled. it seems there's something in the eucalyptus scented air here. atomized miracle gro, perhaps??? don't scoff — it could be part of some mysterious government plot! heh...j/k. I'm not a conspiracy nut or anything. it's just that everything is so unbelievably fertile, it can't be real. "ornamental" citrus plantings are laden with fruit year-round, the excess littering the ground thoughtlessly. sidewalks are stained with oil from olives, falling unnoticed by town residents. trees leftover from this area's orchard heyday give mountains of plums or apricots with little to no effort by their current stewards. my grammie's yard, two miles up the road, hosts a tribe of skunks who nightly gorge themselves on the avocados she cannot keep up with. milk and honey, people; that's what this place is. and omg, having a trader joe's a half-mile away will be pretty darned terrific, too.

{rogue tomatoes, two beds over from their brethren, germinated in the gravel walkway where lemon-buddhahand hybrid freakfruits fall}

anywho...moving on. if fresh, gorgeous foods are the key to health, dad will be up again in no time.

Tuesday, July 21

thai fresh ~ b-day festivities continue

note: it appears the key — at least in my case — to successful b-day certificate gifting is boldly signing me up in advance! (for future gifting ease, is there some genius way of making outlook calendars public?) really...just schedule me and I'll happily show up. within the same year, even!

Align Center{jam in her element}

jam sanitchat, of thai fresh, offers a daily array of fresh thai dishes, featuring locally sourced (wherever possible) ingredients. her counter has become a reliable dinner spot, and her face a regular at the farmer's market from which her fresh ingredients are sourced. jam's cooking is indicative — as is her helpful blog — of her warmth and generosity of spirit.

jam also offers evening classes on thai cuisine and technique. a few years ago, when deb took a class, they were offered out of her own cozy home kitchen. now they're housed in her vibrant south austin shop.

{plants, produce and dry goods are available, in addition to pre-cooked items)

upon opening my birthday card and reading the inscription, my mouth began to water in anticipation. b very shrewdly signed me up for the course on thai noodles, which includes my all-time favorites (singaporean style and drunken noodles) and his (bean thread noodle salad).

{fancy knifework}

the class was casual and easy, with a hands-on moment or two for everyone present. even my limp noodlearms were enlisted for one dish, and the burned, sticking bits were kindly overlooked. other attendees included a few couples looking to broaden their cooking skills for entertaining, two quiet friends with impressive knife skills, newlyweds who honeymooned in thailand, and a mother-in-law/daughter-in-law pair (m-in-law and family spent 6 years in jakarta, only returning during the 1998 riots. d-in-law's hubby was interested in living abroad again sometime). the only other "single" in the full class seemed to be a regular in jam's kitchen, stocking up on groceries before leaving. all seemed to possess a genuine love of and curiosity for thai food and culture.

{b could probably take down this whole bowl of glass noodle salad}

jam's instructional style is informative (explaining differences between various types of soy sauce, and why at least two are really necessary), open (lots of personal stories) and fun. she covers the material from technical, geographical, historical and cultural perspectives, making it even more entertaining.
despite having a dozen strangers in the working kitchen (often standing precisely where an employee needed to be at any moment), jam's staff was friendly and inclusive. the sense of camaraderie around mutual love of food is apparent (while closing up shop, a bottle of wine was opened for tasting and discussing). they seem to love their work, and there's no need to ask why. even after one short evening there — dashing home, basil and orange coconut ice creams in hand (suspending the rapidly melting container over the a/c vents) — it felt a little bit like having shared the time with foodie family.

{family-style meals}

Monday, July 20

weekend piccys ~ b-day edition

thirty plus one. who knew the plus-one could make all the difference? I didn't expect it to, but this year seems more grown-up somehow. thirty — all about kitsch — was celebrated with stealthily spiked iced tea and green jell-o at the local luby's, and donn's depot, where we were the youngest folks in the boxcar by several decades. this year I was thrilled to just chill out, enjoy an exquisite dinner, and spend a little time with friends. it also could be a very different work-life and the prospect of heading home to assist in a parent's recuperation. in the face of so much change, thirty-plus-one just feels like a bigger deal.

{the weekend began a little early, with a half-day at the spa}

{then the farmer's market, which has shifted its hours earlier to beat the sun. not sure what came in these sacks, but I contemplated making off with them for an up-cycling project}

{that dog loves the farmer's market and all the generous petting}

{contemplating birthday breakfastchocolate, but deciding instead on a grown-up scone}

{the park ~ not a fan of poison ivy, nor its attempts at reproduction...but this is pretty, no?}

{more chocolate: this time I succumbed to the allure of rose-cardamom loveliness}

{perusing a gift from b near two b-day gifts to myself, from elena's shop ~the aptly named happiness}

{and yes, even more chocolate}

{gorgeous roses from the sin fairy}

{and an apron so adorable I may not be able to risk marring it with jam spots}

{my two b-day wishes this year: a shower or two and a surgical success, back home ~ this seemed promising}

last night I received this birthday miracle from b's madre, so hopes are high for the other, bigger wish:

Friday, July 17

the lakehouse

I am a terrible friend who should never be given gift certificates. ever. a year ago—almost to the day—I enjoyed a luxurious half-day at the lake austin spa c/o the wonderful b. it was phenomenal. but it had been given for birthday #29, and hadn't been redeemed in any kind of reasonable time frame. it was on the verge of expiring. the spa was phenomenal...did I mention that? so for year #30, 7 very generous friends chipped in on a repeat, saying it should be enjoyed much sooner rather than later. mmm hmm. fast forward to now. the day before its expiration date.

that spa is still phenomenal.

thanks for a most wonderful day, mojo, megan, elise, emily, sj, doubletonic & dmw/p! you're a pretty terrific bunch of gal pals and I'm honored and blessed to be among the pink mafia.

Thursday, July 16

thrift thursday

so maybe this will actually be a weekly thing. tonight's score:

{silk nwt bubble hem top $5.99}

homemade sriracha

the most often heard quote since mentioning this blogging thing to folks: "I didn't know you cook!" variation on theme: "what's with the homemaker thing?" don't worry; I'm still a feminist, y'all.

the simple answer is michael pollan changed my existence. barbara kingsolver was first, actually, to get me thinking about capital-f food. sure, the logic of $1.99/lb south african oranges has always been baffling, but she measures cost in other ways. her essays on ecological footprints are provocative—besides her eating habits, sister even feels guilt for occupying homes built in sensitive areas, erected for people long-dead. she breaks down the environmental costs of 1 lb of beef in a way that's haunted me since reading it seven years ago. it was michael pollan's "omnivore's dilemma" that convinced the other household decision maker that local and very local foods are the way to go. we now check labels on processed foods, first for the dreaded corn syrup, then for the factory location, hoping the ingredients therein are also local. we buy most of our produce from farmers in a radius of 150 miles. we research. we cook.

{the pre-blog recipe archive}

dealing in whole, raw ingredients essentially forces the whole "homemaking" issue (blogging is an attempt at archiving our endeavors and—hopefully— successes). case in point: thai chili peppers. we've got one plant in our garden, and of the peppers we have, it's by far the most prolific.

{hmmm...what to do...}

the blogosphere is lately humming over sriracha, the tangy, garlicky asian hot sauce in the be-roostered plastic squeeze bottle. while there's little consensus on its origins (foreign or american), all seem to agree sriracha is having it's moment in the pop-cultural sun. all's i know is it's good. here's my attempt at replicating it.

homemade sriracha
adapted from white on rice couple

1 c. fresh red thai peppers (or whatever is red and handy) stems removed
2 medium shallots, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp oil
1 c. white distilled vinegar (5% if you plan on long-term storage, rice vinegar is right if for immediate consumption)
1/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp salt, nam pla or soy sauce

de-stem chiles but leave seeds, careful not to handle the peppers (or wear gloves to prevent chemical burns. seriously. it's like napalm, people.). heat oil over med fire and saute garlic and shallot for a minute or two, until fragrant.
add chiles and vinegar and heat to high simmer. turn off heat and add sugar and salt/nam pla/soy sauce, stirring until dissolved. place in glass container and, after cooling, store in fridge a few days while flavors meld.

place jar contents in food processor or blender and puree until a smooth consistency, adding a tbsp of vinegar at a time, if mixture is too thick. the consistency should be ketchup-ish. for long-term storage, add back into a pan for heat processing and canning in heat-sterilized jars. it should keep several months, if it lasts that long. don't forget to wash all pots, utensils, towels and your board.

we might just have an extra jar for some clever hotsauce lover out there. leave a comment and I'll consider sharing.

Wednesday, July 15

weekend piccys

the weekend was spent in blissful sloth. not many photos, as there was that little accomplished. really. cooking, laundry, reading and napping. and that's it.

{at double-tonic's bloke's nomad b-day ~ photo courtesy dt}

{mystery central texas landscaping bush}

{the kitten honing his hunting skillz}

{self-propagating sunflowers in the yard}