Archive for February, 2012

600 Posts

February 6, 2012

Is there a point where you pass being proud of having written so many posts and move into “Am I really still doing this?”  No?  OK good because I’m still happy writing and still enjoying my blog.  I hope you are too.  I decided for this milestone to share my 5 Tips to Greatly Improve the Taste of Your Food and 9 Thrilling Facts About Me.

But first!  I have received requests and I have listened.  Now, at the end of each post, you have the option to email the recipe.  You can send it to yourself, your friend, your mom.  Hopefully someone who appreciates being emailed recipes.  Thanks, as always, to my amazing designer Kaytlyn who was able to figure this out and implement the change in less than 24 hours.   Also, this is the third non-food related post I’ve written in a row.  Yes, I remember this is a food blog.  So to thank you for your patience and endurance, I promise to talk about food – with emailable recipes! –  Monday through Friday of this upcoming week.  Deal?  Hope you enjoy.

5 Tips to Greatly Improve the Taste of Your Food

1)  Always make your own salad dressing.  I know store-bought is easy and it keeps forever.  It is also expensive and contains ingredients that I can’t pronounce.  Making your own, once you get in the habit of doing it, is super quick and easy and you most likely always have the ingredients on hand.  You can make it to your taste (I like mine with a lot of bite), it will keep for a week or more, it tastes much better, and is much less expensive.

2)  Whenever you can, use fresh herbs.  And a lot of them.  There is a time and place for dried herbs.  Something that is simmering for a long time on the stove (like a sauce or a stew) is a great place to use dried.  The subtlety of fresh would be lost in that case.  Same goes with roasting in the oven.  But other than that, the flavor is fresh herbs is so lovely and adds so much to your food.  Fresh rosemary and fresh oregano are strong, so you might want to use a light hand with those two, but otherwise you can be generous with your fresh herbs.

3)  Throw out your spices.  I touched on this when I wrote about my favorite gingerbread cookies.  Spices have a shelf life.  Most people agree it’s about a year.  They don’t spoil, they just lose their oomph.  As we were packing up from the year we spent in London, I found out that we were not allowed to bring any food stuffs back into the U.S.  Not even canned goods.  So I had to give away everything in my little kitchen, including my considerable spice collection.  I saved all my jars and, once back home, I restocked everything.  I was blown away by how much better my food, savory and sweet, tasted with new spices.

4)  Always use fresh citrus.  Those little plastic lemon shaped bottles of lemon juice?  Don’t buy them.  Or do and then taste that juice next to the juice of a fresh lemon.  No comparison.  Fresh lemons (and limes and oranges) keep very well in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator and they also have the added benefit of possessing zest which is super flavorful.  I don’t think a Microplane would work on a plastic bottle.

5)  Never buy bagged cheese or cheese in a tub.  I know, again, the convenience is tempting.  Grating cheese is one of the kitchen tasks I like the least.  But grated cheese has been mixed with things like flour or cornstarch so that it doesn’t stick together and who knows how long that cheese has been sitting in a bag.  Buy a hunk of cheese and grate or slice it yourself.  It is one extra step for a lot more flavor.  Do the same with feta or blue cheese and the increase in taste will be more than worth the work.

And now, 9 Thrilling Facts About Me.  I did this once before for my 300 Posts post.

1)  In my life I have owned six cars and they have all been different colors.  Red, dark gray, green, silver, blue, and black.  It looks like yellow is next, huh?

2)  My favorite color is purple.  My least favorite is yellow.  (See above.)

3)  My name and my husband’s name are both unisexual (is that a word?)  Meaning that a guy or girl can be named Dana or Randy.  In fact, before I met him, the only other Randy I ever knew was a girl in my grade school whose sister, coincidentally, was named Dana.  The only other Dana that Randy ever knew was a giant African American man.

4)  I have been practicing yoga for 14 years, taking a couple years off while I was having my kids, nursing, dealing with infants, etc.  You might think that means I can put both my feet behind my head but I am very very far from that.  I started off doing Bikram yoga for a year and it almost destroyed my back.  Fortunately, I found my way to the Yoga Tree, a wonderful studio in Seattle, where they teach Iyengar based yoga.  Iyengar is the yoga of alignment so I really learned how to do the poses correctly.  I now try and practice 3 times a week and it is truly what my body likes best.  If you are tempted to try yoga and are scared off because you are “not flexible”, know that strength is equally important to flexibility.  Being tight allows you to learn to use your body’s own strength to open up, rather than just flopping into poses.

5)  I am a big reader.  I subscribe to the New Yorker and I always have a book going.  I like modern fiction, the good stuff, and have read some really terrific things in the last year.  Lord of Misrule, A Visit from the Goon Squad, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, Land of Marvels.  I’m currently reading The Marriage Plot.

6)  I sometimes suffer from crushing self-doubt when it comes to this blog and this food-related job that I have created for myself.  I start to feel some of the same insecurities that rocked me in middle and high school – not pretty enough, not smart enough, not working hard enough, not getting invited to the right parties.  Sometimes I just want to back away from it all – blog, Facebook, Twitter.  It is during those moments that I honestly ask myself why I am writing this blog – why I have been writing it for all these years.  And the truth is that it is for me.  I love that people read and share, I love that I have met some amazing people and have made some lifelong friends.  I love that I have been able to start teaching classes and that a big driver for those classes is my blog.  But ultimately, I am keeping a record of my life through food so that someday, we as a family can look back and see what our life was in these years.  I don’t say this as a cry for sympathy or a request for praise.  I just want to put it out there that, at times, I feel very inadequate in this space.

7)  My 20th college reunion is this year in June.  I’m alternating between excitement and horror.  Randy and I went for my 10th.  We were about to be married, we stayed in the same dorm where I lived my freshman year, and I had a blast.   I remember looking at the tables of 20th year people thinking that would probably be the next reunion I would attend.  Early 40’s, married and kids seemed far away.  And here I am.

8)  People ask me, at least several times a week, if my hair is naturally curly.  Yes, my hair is naturally curly.  Then they say that they always wanted naturally curly hair.  I’m confused by this.  Why do straight irons, Brazillian blow-outs, and places whose sole point of business is to blow out curly hair exist if curly hair is so desirable?  I, in keeping with the tradition that the grass is always greener, have always wanted straight hair, but at the ripe old age of 41, I have made peace with my curls.

9)  In March, Randy and I are going on a trip to the country that is about as far away from Seattle as you can get.  Guesses?  Book recommendations?

A Slice of My Life – Week 5

February 4, 2012

Doors.  Bainbridge Island.  Love them.

Our morning routine goes a little something like this.  Graham’s bus comes a bit after 9am.  If I wait to take Spencer to school until after Graham is on the bus, he misses circle time and the ever important show and share.  So I load both kids into the car, we drop Spencer off, then speed back to the house to catch Graham’s bus.  Except on Wednesdays when Spencer stays home with me and we all wait for the bus together.  I know this picture is blurry.  That is because my children never stop moving.

Sad face.

This is the loaner car I have been driving while my car is getting its 75,000 mile check up.  When they gave us the first estimate, I thought to myself, “We could probably buy a pony for that price”.  Once they got in there and started noodling around and found that we needed new brakes, new battery, new timing belt, new things I have never heard of, they gave us another estimate.  I feel quite sure we could buy a very nice used Prius for the price of what this “check-up” is costing us.

Hard to believe that just  a couple of weeks ago, we were using these sleds as sleds.  Now they are rain catchers and lawn ornaments.

After almost a year of trying to make peace with my graying hair, I decided to start coloring it again.  I felt like it was making me look older than I wanted to look.  I would not say that I am an overly vain person, it was just starting to bum me out.  I found a place that uses dye that does not smell and a woman who really understood what I wanted to do.  I’m not trying to cover the gray completely and I wanted my hair to look natural.  When I have done all-over color in the past, the color is too uniform and my hair is short, so I look like I am wearing a helmet.  I wanted to work with the gray to make it almost as highlights.  Is this incredibly boring?  Anyway, this is the before picture.  She did kind of a reverse foil and I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

After.  With the birthday boy.

Veggie Pho.  I could eat this for lunch and dinner every day.  I like my broth really spicy.

Finally, the cake the birthday boy picked out.  Recipe coming soon!


February 3, 2012

Lately I have been telling my children that I am going to start feeding them donuts for breakfast, ice cream for lunch, and cake for dinner in an effort to make them stop growing up.  Because nothing else seems to be working.

Yesterday, February 2nd, my baby turned five.  If you have a baby, five probably doesn’t sound like a baby, but he will always be my baby.  Five is a big birthday.  Five is the year children start kindergarten.  Five is officially the end of toddler-dom.  Five is a kid.  I could say a million other things but it all boils down to the fact that I can’t believe my baby is five.  Five years ago, we took Graham, then aged 26 months, to a friend’s house so we could go the hospital and have a baby.  I sobbed with guilt in the car on the way.  Spencer was a planned for and wanted baby, but I felt almost that I was betraying my beloved first born by bringing another child into our little family.  I had no idea, of course, that Spencer would complete our family and that he would become an amazing playmate for Graham.

So my (not so) little baby, who are you at five?  You are an incredibly independently minded person who can carry on a full and engaging conversation.  You still, however, need help buttoning your pants.  You have just started to write your name with the “p” backwards and the letters very large.  You are s-m-a-r-t.  So bright and interested in everything.  You ask me what a word means and I see it just sucked right up into your brain.  You have a temper and hate to be embarrassed.  You love school and ask me every day if it is your show and share day.  You still want to do everything the same way Graham does – you idolize him.  You also squabble with him.  A lot.

(This is one of my favorite photos of my Seattle baby.  You are about 14 months here.)

Your hair can really no longer be called blond but I hold out hope that it will lighten again in the summer.  You are still a big guy – people rarely guess your age correctly.  Your cheeks, arms, and legs are still squishy.  Your belly is just big enough that it kind of pushes down your pants so you have a perpetual plumber’s crack going.  It may be time for a belt.  You still allow me to pick out your clothes each morning but if left to your own devices, you would wear “cozy” pants every day.  Your voice is still raspy and high, surprising for such a big boy.  And adorable.

You still like vehicles but no longer carry one in each hand everywhere.  You really like tape and making little projects out of paper and various things you find.  You call it “artzuka” from one of the shows you watch.  You are obsessed with Batman and love this shirt that comes with a “cake” (that would be a cape).  You do not, however, want to put the Batman sheets that Santa brought on your bed because they are too scary.  You continue to be a much pickier eater than your brother – carrots and celery are the only vegetables you will touch.  You are a big snacker and love yogurt.  Treats are a big part of your life and your current favorite is “mommy’s homemade ice cream”.

At night you like me to lie next to you and rub your back.  My own father used to do this for me – I know how lovely it feels.  All animals are banished from your bed but they do sit on a chair nearby.  We talk about what the next day brings.  Some nights, when you are very very tired, your eyes will flutter closed while I lie next to you.  I remember lying in my bed with you during your colicky months, trying to nap along side you, completely exhausted from caring for a baby who cried from 5pm to midnight non-stop every day.  You were tiny, of course, and I would pat your back, silently begging you to sleep.  Your eyes would flutter in that same way and I would hold my breath, willing them to stay closed.  Now you almost never cry (and when you do, it’s a big production), and sleep comes easily to you.  I almost want your eyes to flutter back open so you will say goodnight to me one more time.

I’ve been keeping track of some of the cuter things you say.  You were telling me about the Zamboni at the ice rink and you called it a “tromboni”.  We broke through a spider web and you said, “Looks like we need a web repair”.  Melted frozen yogurt looked like “a yogurt swimming pool”.  People don’t litter, they “glitter” as in “that man is glittering”.  Stupendous is “dependous”.  You think driving school has little mini cars and pretend stop lights.  I was roasting beets one day and when they came out of the oven you asked, “Are those sharks?”  “Sometimes, when I have a headache, I pretend to pull my head off.”  And my favorite – one day we were about to pull into an intersection after our light turned green.  A guy came through, completely running his red light.  I cried out and you asked me why.  “Because that guys was going really fast and he went through a red light – that is not safe!”  To which you said, “Well, maybe he had some ice cream in the back of his car and it was melting.”

I have written so many posts about Graham, one might wonder why there is so little of you here on my blog.  The truth is that my love for you is so uncomplicated.  There is that age old saying that you love your children the same, just differently.  I love you the same amount as Graham but with less frustration, less guilt, more ease, and more humor.  Every year brings new wonders in being your mother.

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