Friday, February 28, 2014
I took these lovely photos last spring of the blooming tree outside our old apartment. Like everyone else, I'm so desperate for these sunny, springy skies to return. Hopefully it doesn't feel too cruel to share them while we're still suffering below freezing temps in the northeast. They are giving me hope as we turn the calendar over to March this weekend!
This weekend is packed to the brim with fun stuff, and I'm so excited. Tonight we're going to a play, tomorrow night a party, and then Sunday to dinner at a friend's! We'll also be doing some house stuff - painting the bathroom vanity upstairs, maybe experimenting with taking down some paneling off the bedroom walls (Peter doesn't know about that plan yet, though!), and shopping for new floors. Whew!
Our house is a disaster zone - the entire kitchen was gutted down to the studs this week, and the dust levels are insane (though our contractor is doing his very best to keep it all contained as much as possible!). Next week I'll try to share some pictures of the craziness! It will be good to get out and about.
I've been thinking a lot about how we should be spending these last few weeks before parenthood duties officially kick-off. We're doing so much work around the house (and spending so much money!) that it's tempting to just hunker down and focus all our attention there. But this week I've been emailing with a girlfriend who had the most darling baby a few months ago. She gives great advice (about literally everything), so I desperately asked her what I should be doing during this weird time period, thinking I might be failing to accomplish something important like pre-washing bottles and baby clothes (which I don't even own yet).
But no. She had much better - much saner - advice. Go out to dinner. Take care of yourself. Have adventures. That's been spinning around in my mind all week. So I booked a weekend away to our beloved Portland, ME, and I've also put together a short mental list of local stuff I'd love to do, like going back to the Gardner and trying this fun looking new spot.
That advice really works for almost all of us, no matter what our lives look like at the moment, right? The dusty house will wait, but we need to make space to enjoy the fleeting blooms on the trees.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
We had the best time on our trip to San Diego! I collected our whole week of activities into one big post.
Day one: We met up with my parents, my sister, and her boyfriend Joel at our rental car place at LAX (to pick up our awesome minivan!). I convinced everyone that we should stop at In-N-Out Burger before driving down to Escondido. We made it to our resort, and then grabbed dinner at this yummy Argentinian spot (though the manager did have an annoying habit of asking repeatedly if we'd like to pose for a picture on their Facebook page. Thanks for asking, but NO.)
Day two: The gentleman in our group were particularly excited about the plethora of craft beer s in this area of the country. We went to Stone Brewing for a drink in their amazing gardens while waiting for a table to have a late lunch. The gardens are deceptively small, but are so well laid-out that every table and seating area feels private and special. We made a quick stop at Stone Farm on our way home. They grow food for restaurants, including their own, and there are chickens and goats and such. They sell beer, and people just seem to hang out (we came across lots of spaces during our trip that seemed conducive to that!).
Day three: Using Eater for guidance, we went to Mariscos El Pescador for lunch. It's in the parking lot of a mostly abandoned strip mall, but they had the most delicious fish tacos - for $1.25 each! We spent the afternoon at the San Diego Zoo. I loved the set up there - each new animal habitat felt like a happy discover because it's so lush and green, and the paths just wind along.
These flamingos were among my favorites.
That night, we met up with some long-time family friends for a drink at the lovely Hotel del Coronado (which the Grand Floridian in Orlando is based off of!). There's a giant patio in the back that looks at the ocean, with couches and chairs set up around fire pits. It was heavenly. For dinner, we ate waaaaaay too many chips and queso at Miguelito's.
Day four: My parents, Peter, and I spent the morning golfing at the course on our resort. Super hilly, but views were great and the holes were short (my favorite!).
Our beer tour continued with a visit to Ballast Point, where I tried the most incredibly crisp, light wheat beer (don't worry, I only had a sip!). My mom, sister, and I spent the afternoon shopping while the guys went on to do another tasting at Green Flash. We made fantastic guacamole at home and grilled steaks that night for dinner. I miss those avocados!
Day five: We stopped at Campini's Deli to grab sandwiches and snacks to go, and then went to Hart Winery. They have picnic tables on a patio outside of their tasting room that looks onto the (currently dormant) vineyards. Little grey lizards crawled along while we ate a lazy lunch with a bottle of their wine.
We later visited Wiens and Marimar - both lovely spots that are much more of a production than Hart was. Bigger tasting rooms, lots more people, large outdoor spaces. All the vineyards are very easy to bop around to - they're all basically off of the same road in Temecula.
For the afternoon, we shopped around Old Town Temecula, with a fantastic stop at the Temecula Olive Oil Company for an oil and vinegar tasting. (I was jealous of everyone else's wine and beer tastings, so I really went for it with those oils :) For dinner that night, we drove out to Carlsbad for sushi at Blue Ocean. This was one of our favorite meals of the week. In addition to sushi, they serve robata, which is basically grilled meat on a skewer. Delish.
Day six: The end of the week was unusually warm (around 80 degrees), so we spent the entire day by the pool, grilling burgers and eating more guacamole made from those unbelievable avocados. I had brought this book along with me for the trip, and I found it be terrible! Could not get through it. I'm now thoroughly caught up on the March edition of every magazine on the shelf, though.
Day seven: We started the day with a crazy drive up to Mt. Soledad. The views of La Jolla were stunning, and the memorial was touching. To round out our fish taco eating, we went to El Pescador Fish Market for lunch - also amazing, and the setting is a bit of an upgrade from the strip mall parking lot.
We spent an amazing afternoon Cabrillo National Monument to see the tidal pools. There are easy walking paths and beautiful views everywhere you turn. We went up to the top to see the lighthouse afterwards, which was very cool - you really got a sense for how isolating it was to be a lighthouse keeper.
For dinner, we were back in La Jolla to go to Whisknladle. Oooh, this place was so good! Everything I tried - which included bone marrow, my main dish with pork, olives, and asparagus, and a chocolate peanut butter confection - was wonderful. Highly recommend if you're looking for a fun celebratory dinner in that area.
I really, really didn't want to come home from this trip. Being outside so much in the sunshine, eating so many delicious things, getting to spend so much time with my family - it was just a perfect mix. California, I can't wait to see you again someday.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Sooooooo. There are a few things that have happened in the house since moving in that I've been too embarrassed to tell you about. This is because they were my fault, and they made our already crazy house even more crazy. But now that we are on the cusp of the rest of our renovation (which will address these insane things!), I feel like I can come clean.
The top two are in our dining room, and they are things I did within a week of moving in last August. I innocently pulled a piece of wallpaper off the wall to see how stuck on it was, and was horrified to realize that the previous owners had put the wallpaper on over paneling. What the what? I told Peter we need to take down the paneling so we could paint the walls, which involved taking down the (very tacky, very plastic) crown molding and trim. However, underneath that sheet of paneling was a horror show of crumbling plaster that can't be salvaged. We've been living with that piece of paneling propped against the wall for almost seven months. Gah! But the entire room is going to get a coat of new plaster, along with the ceiling. And the carpet is getting ripped up, too.
On the hutch, I took off the horrible shudders and then sprayed it like crazy with paint stripper. Over and over and over, and it still looks all chippy and crazy. I know that I could be more patient and get it clean enough to re-stain, but I'm totally resigned to painting it at this point.
The last photo captures a taste of the worst thing I've done to the house. Before we moved in, I peeled back a piece of wallpaper in the kitchen to see how stuck on that one was, and that also revealed paneling underneath. One weekend in October, Peter was away for a bachelor party, and in what my Mom thinks was a fit of hormonal insanity, I pulled off all the paneling, which revealed no fewer than six (6!!!) different wall papers throughout the room. My brilliant solution to this horrendous obstacle was to buy the biggest tub of joint compound I could find and literally cover every single square inch of the kitchen before Peter came home. It is a disaster. (To Peter's tremendous credit, he has admirably pretended that this is not a completely awful thing.)
I am really writing a novel here! Easing toward the wrap-up, the kitchen is being remodeled, starting tomorrow (Monday!!!). We got back from a glorious week in San Diego last night around midnight, and have spent all day paper writing (for me, boo), and then moving all our stuff out of our kitchen and dining room. Lots of stuff on the porch, a new-to-us fridge from Craigslist in the entryway, and a make-shift kitchen set up in the living room. By the way, I have a fun California post coming up this week, too...
Anyways! I didn't snap a picture of this, but we're also having our stairs opened up a bit so that we won't hit our heads on the ceiling when walking on the fourth step multiple times a day. I am 30 weeks pregnant today, and this all feels a little bit insane, but I really hope our instincts are right that we'll be very, very happy to have this all done pre-baby.
Just keep cooking, baby. Please don't even think about coming early!
Friday, February 7, 2014
This semester, one of my classes is being taught by the editor of The Horn Book. Yesterday we got to visit their offices, which featured stuffed shelf after stuffed shelf of children's book - essentially, heaven. I love the magazine's most recent magazine cover from the lovely Jonathan Beam.
It's fitting on multiple levels right now. I could practically build a snowman this large with the amount of snow in my tiny yard. And we're getting ready to go back into building, renovating, and construction-mode in our house. The plan is for the latest (and maybe final?!?) round to be done by mid-April, leaving a couple of weeks to clear the dust ahead of my due date (which I share with Grace and Olivia, weirdly enough! Also, those are two names are on our long list of girl's names, ha.). If the baby comes early, though, hooooooly cow.
I'll be able to give more of an update about our plans later, once we review all the quotes and make our final-final decisions about what to do. Suffice to say, I'm having frantic thoughts at 4:00 a.m. about setting up our dressers in the bathroom upstairs and assessing how many slow-cooker recipes are actually in my repertoire (not nearly enough).
Plans for the weekend include watching the open ceremony tonight with take-out, lots of school work, and hosting friends for a dinner party on Sunday. I have zero ideas about what to make, which isn't like me, but I'm sure it will come together just fine. (Just kidding, as I was reading over this post, some inspiration struck: meatballs with braised onions and mashed potatoes, carrots and fennel, and the most perfect brownies would all be good.)
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, friends!
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Abbie shared a link to the Lyman Estate Greenhouses last week, and I was immediately sold. It's just a few minutes away from our house, so on Sunday afternoon, Peter and I popped in for a much needed shot of spring.
There are four lush greenhouses that are all connected, as well as a nice plant shop that has succulents, orchids, and citrus trees for sale. The whole place smells so clean and wet and green.
If you go, you'll also be right near here, too! Sadly, it's closed on Sundays (WHY are you closed on Sundays, Moody's Delicatessen?!?!), but next time. Next time.
Sunday, February 2, 2014
We've been cooking so many good things lately, but I've been terrible about sharing! This post is a giant collection of yummy things that have come out of our kitchen in 2014. Up above was our New Years Day dinner - Hoppin' John, corn bread, and Ina's broccoli rabe with garlic (a Northern's version of greens?!). I think it's bringing us luck so far.
Next was a fantastic dish Peter made - toad in the hole. He remembered an au pair making this when he was a kid, so it was fun to recreate. There were a mix of spicy and sweet sausages, which I highly recommend.
Remember when I told you I had a pineapple hanging around? Part of it went into this gingery stir fry with sugar snap peas, broccoli, shredded carrots, and left-over beef brisket (I don't have pictures of that, but Peter used these tips from Chow Hound to make it).
Over the years, I've figured out how to rework lots of things to avoid tomatoes, but ragout always stumped me. A few weeks ago, we had both left-over lamb stew that had lots of carrots, and also a mixture of sausages cooked with onions and peppers. I pulled out the meat from both dishes and chopped it up very finely (it basically fell apart since they'd both been cooked before), and then put all the vegetables into the food processor. I combined the meat and vegetables with some butter and let it simmer for a while, and then added a blob of goat cheese right at the end. Not AT ALL traditional, but it was seriously amazing. I'm not sure I'll ever have that weird combination of left-overs again in my life, but it's worth trying to recreate it. We had a kale and arugula salad with red pears to go with it.
And finally, Ina Garten's baked shrimp scampi. Shrimp is one of those weird foods that inexplicably scares me to cook (for years I didn't like it, so maybe that's why?). I was flipping through one of her cookbooks, though, and this caught my eye. Peter had been on a grading tear, so I peeled and de-veined the shrimp myself (not my favorite job), and even still, this dish was totally worth it. It would be a great choice if you're making a fun dinner at home for Valentine's Day this year - it's even pink!
What are you cooking this winter?