::On my MP3 player
I'm enjoying the cool, mellow tones of Joshua Radin lately. He's just right for those lazy afternoon moments, lounging on the couch in my air conditioned home or those post-beach evenings, suntanned and sleepy.
::On my bedside table
Earlier this year I ordered a subscription to National Geographic, and I'm not sure why it took me so long to do so since I'm totally in love with it. From the stunning photography to excellent writing which explores other cultures, science, and history, this is definitely bedside travel at its best.
::On my DVR
I want to travel Mexico with Rick Bayless. In the meantime, watching his PBS cooking show Mexico: One Plate at a Time will certainly do. I've always suspected that authentic Mexican cuisine was far more than quick fast food, ground beef tacos, and Velveeta cheese-slathered nachos. Bayless' confirms this theory, educating viewers on the diversity and complexity of Mexican cuisine in his typical, charismatic fashion. Every week I look for one night where I can curl up alone on the couch and savor the show. I can't get enough.
::On blistering hot Saturdays
Hands down, Karis favorite thing to do is swim in the lake with Daddy B (her grandpa). He's fun and lets her do things Mom is too fussy to let her do in her presence like swim in the lake (!), jump off the stairs, and stay in the water for hours on end. I'm pretty sure he's been elevated to superhero status in her mind.
::In my freezer
I can't seem to get popsicles out of my mind lately. They are the perfect way to cool down and consume juice and fresh fruit. Inspired by this post, I purchased some limes and a few extra cartons of blueberries and raspberries this week. Now I'm on the hunt for good popsicle molds that are inexpensive and good quality (nothing worse than a frozen pop that slides right off the stick). I stepped into Williams Sonoma this morning and spotted this fancy pants machine, and though it would fit the bill in the quality department, the price tag caused some eye rolling (not all that uncommon for me in that store).
Monday, June 28, 2010
::On my MP3 player
Posted by Alina at 4:34 PM
Sunday, June 27, 2010
He has one of those faces I won't soon forget. On Tuesday he told us quietly and without much fanfare that it was his birthday. We made a big deal of it, singing boisterously until he finally cracked a smile. I hope to see him again soon, riding around on his bike.
Posted by Alina at 5:48 PM
Friday, June 25, 2010
(Karis, holding our newest crop of grape tomatoes and just about the only contact she can have with them these days.)
Imagine a world without tomatoes. No red-sauced pizza, spaghetti, ketchup, etc. Well, that's exactly what I've been doing over the last 24 hours. I haven't wrapped my brain around it yet, but I've been informed I must.
I took Karis in to the pediatrician for a re-check for an infection yesterday, and the doctor, flipping through her chart, says in a no-big-deal kind of way, "Oh, and she's allergic to tomatoes."
(Head spinning for a few moments.)
"What?!" I finally threw back, followed by a slew of objections to the diagnosis: "But we eat tomatoes like everyday!" and "Tomatoes are in everything!" and "But we're GROWING tomatoes in our backyard!"
I like Karis' doctor. She's calm and collected when crazy parents say the aforementioned things. She smiled and responded, "I'm growing tomatoes too. They are this high (pointing to her chest)."
Her distraction worked, and we talked a little bit about our gardens, comparing notes. When the conversation lulled, I looked at her and asked in a small, pleading voice, "Really? No more tomatoes?" There was no point in asking twice.
I drove home, my head swimming in a sauce of shock, grief, and hopelessness that is a life without tomatoes. The injustice seemed overwhelming. Whoever heard of a tomato allergy and better yet, whoever heard of a good substitute for tomatoes in cooking?
I thought about the delicious homemade pizza we dined on the night before, and what's more, the amazing marinara sauce I discovered just one week prior. My friend shared a recipe she had learned, and it was everything I was looking for in a sauce. It wasn't like this sauce which has been all over the internet but left me wanting more herbaceous, garlicky flavor. Well, with my friend's delicious recipe, I finally found what I was looking for, only to be told my perfect new sauce could be harmful to my child.
The cruelty. The injustice! The lycopene deficiency!!
Now I am aware that my diet doesn't have to change, but as any parent knows, the hassle of cooking separate meals and keeping small kids out of adult food, no matter how forbidden, is just that...a big hassle. I'm a mom that cooks one meal for one table, not a chef cooking a menu for multiple tables. I plan to keep things that way.
As the day wore on and some rational thinking took over my emotionalism, I came to a few good conclusions. The truth is, I can do without tomato sauce. There are plenty of substitutes for red sauce on pizza. For instance, there's pesto sauce, white pizza, thai peanut pizza (a family favorite, inspired by the one at this restaurant), and on and on. I obviously won't be too limited in the pizza department.
And while classic spaghetti is certainly a no-go in the dawn of this tomato-less era, there are many pasta recipes that depart from the classic tomato-drenched pile of noodles. We can afford to get creative in that department as well.
I guess what I am most sad about is the umami factor, that strange new term everybody in the culinary world has been talking about. Tomatoes have umami, a certain savoriness that, when added to dishes, enhances flavors giving them a meatier taste. I like umami. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it. I often add a little bit of raw tomato, tomato sauce, or paste to dishes to boost flavors. But umami no more, at least not from tomatoes.
I'm a cynic by nature so irony doesn't easily escape me. Just hours before the fateful doctor's visit, I watered our upside down tomato planter. I looked at the clusters of grape tomatoes ripening on the vine, plump and practically perfect. I was elated that these tomatoes were growing so well. This was by far my best attempt at growing tomatoes to date, and I couldn't wait to harvest them. In just two short hours I would get the bad news.
Of course we'll still harvest them, and then we'll hide them. Hide and eat in quiet moments as Karis sleeps or plays in the other room. Who knows, the sneaking around may even be exciting.
So to commemorate this beloved fruit which has now been banished to a late night dish, I want to share with you my new and newly retired marinara recipe. Just because I can't savor the umami, doesn't mean you can't.
Off Limits Marinara Sauce
2 large tomatoes, cored and chopped
8 basil leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs. tomato paste
Small pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Puree all of the ingredients together in a food processor until your desired consistency. In a small sauce pan, bring mixture to a boil over medium high heat then reduce to low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Salt and pepper to taste.
Yields: Approximately 2 cups of sauce
Posted by Alina at 2:05 PM
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
My camera has been neglected lately, seeing far too much of the dark confines of my camera bag. I've been writing up a storm, enjoying the opportunities to express myself with words. But I've been missing that camera. It allows me to capture the story in one little picture, a colorful snapshot that says everything without having to spell anything out.
But it takes work to take photos--work to see (really see) the stories going on around me. So I've preferred to write about those stories in hindsight rather than lug around a camera and try to capture them in the moment. I have little "in the moment" energy to spare, it seems.
Blogging is a mixed bag, a sometimes ego-feeder and, at other times, encouragement to the artistic soul. A fellow blogger stumbled on my blog the other day and left a kind comment about my photography. It took me by surprise given my current camera drought, but it provided just the push I needed to pull it out and start experimenting again.
I love what Rebecca is doing for the month of June. A writer/photographer like myself, she dedicated this month to posting only pictures. I like this idea, and though I think I'll still throw in a few wordy posts here and there, I want to focus on photography for a little while. In short, I hope to slow down and capture all these summer moments going on around me.
Posted by Alina at 5:05 PM
Thursday, June 17, 2010
A few good friends came over for a play date today. With a near-empty fridge, I scrounged together a meal least fitting for three hungry toddlers--salad. But a tasty coating of Asian dressing made the meal as savory as any meat dish, in my opinion. Empty plates at the end were proof enough.
Karis is rather charismatic in her prayer style. Whenever somebody prays out load in her presence, she takes it as an invitation to join in saying her own prayer, just as loudly (if not louder). I've been hesitant to correct since any spiritual involvement from a child is a beautiful, complicated, growing thing. When I started to pray out loud before lunch, she lept in with this beautiful number:
Thank you for me and Mama K and Daddy and Karis and Mrs. Nikki and me and....(pause).... Santa Claus. Amen.
Fighting back laughter and feeling slightly embarrassed, I turned to Nikki who immediately commented on the skillfulness of working oneself into a short prayer not once but three times. A skill? Perhaps. An indicator of even more prayers needed? Most definitely.
Posted by Alina at 5:17 PM
Sunday, June 13, 2010
:: Last week, a few granny smith apples and a captivated family audience made for an impromptu showing of Matt's juggling skills that he developed somewhere in the boredom of youth. Karis was completely enthralled, giggling and wide-eyed.
She forgot about that show until yesterday when, in the middle of her bath, she began "juggling." She juggled all through her bath, during the walk to her room to get dressed, and throughout the rest of the afternoon. She would stop me periodically and make sure I knew exactly how it's done. With her hands full of imaginary juggling balls, she'd look at me and say, First you have to throw them up in the air like this. Then, her body straight as a board and arms out in front of her, she'd toss them up and begin moving her hands up and down to mimic the characteristic motion of rapid catch and release.
It's cute and all, but I'm a little afraid that if I encourage this sort of behavior, she'll end up like that guy in college who road around campus juggling while riding on his unicycle.
And, no, that wasn't my husband.
:: I've been doing my own juggling act of sorts lately. Writing one article a month for a local publication wouldn't seem like a big undertaking, but when you add that to what is essentially a season of single parenting due to Matt's busy schedule right now, I feel like I'm spinning many plates. Unlike Karis and Matt, I fear my juggling skills are a little lacking, evidenced by the mess and curious odor in my kitchen at this very moment.
So what do I do? I ask to write a second article for the upcoming issue. I'm writing a restaurant review, and the truth is, I'm really excited about the opportunity. On Monday, I went to meet the owner of a local Ethiopian restaurant, and I tasted and loved (!) the food. The above picture is a little preview of what's to come.
Click here (scroll down to pg. 9) to read the latest article I wrote where I reminisce about childhood baseball memories with my father. It was a fun piece to write.
Posted by Alina at 2:42 PM
Monday, June 07, 2010
I can never buy store-bought eggs again, and I've got my neighbor Miranda to blame. She told me about a woman in her church who raises chickens and sells the eggs. The directions were simple: give Miranda $3 and she would go to church, pick up the package, and bring me back a dozen, light brown, delicately-speckled fresh eggs. That's good neighborliness of an Anne of Green Gables dimension.
Well, kind Miranda dropped off the purchase this morning, and it's official...I'm in love. I mean how could I not love these 12 beauties (11 actually...I fried one, posthaste) which were laid just yesterday at a family farm mere miles from my home?
To compound the matter, Miranda informed me that the care and responsibility of raising the chickens, gathering the eggs, washing, and preparing for sale falls solely on the eldest daughter, Sophie. It's essentially her own business. She does the work, she keeps the money.
Sweet, hardworking Sophie.
I've never met her, but you can rest assured I'm already drafting up a plan to do just that. I want to thank her in person, perhaps watch her work a little, and ask (in a most unassuming, non-creepy manner) if I can take a picture of her doing her chores, working hard so that my family can eat those fresh, organic, meaty-flavored eggs.
I'm not sure if I can pull it off, but I bet good neighbor Miranda will help.
Posted by Alina at 5:26 PM
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
Posted by Alina at 9:44 PM