Thursday, September 30, 2010

real homegrown tomatoes

A few mornings ago, Dashiell and I were walking back from Peets after a run and I stopped to ask one of our neighbors about her tomatoes. We live in a neighborhood that was for a long time a little Japanese community, where everyone has fruit trees and vegetable gardens in their backyards. One of the older, original residents grows tomatoes in her front planter and I've been watching them all summer. She DOESN'T sucker her tomatoes as she goes. And of course I've been thinking, well, how can hers be any good???

But then Tuesday she was out there raking up the stems and leaves she'd just removed, now that her plants are huge and bearing fruit. I had to ask. She's clearly been doing this for decades and must know something the rest of us don't.

So she says that she pulls off all the extra branches and leaves after the plants have fruited. AND she picks the tomatoes when they're green and lets them ripen inside the house. She sent me along with a bag full to try.

They were delicious. I had one on a bagel in the morning and for dinner we had caprese (of course) and a raw zucchini salad with tomatoes and pinenuts.

I'm thinking of trying the indoor ripening. Seems like it would take the threat of mealiness out of the equation, since they're not getting any water while they ripen? I love relying on old pros for advice. And they're always so eager to share. Next year. Next year my tomatoes will be stupendous.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Costa Rica suggestions

So we're going to Costa Rica in February for a dear dear friend's wedding. Yay! International travel! Very exciting. The wedding is in Manuel Antonio, where I've actually spent a little time before, so during the week before the wedding we'd like to rent a house somewhere else and just relax on the beach as a family.

Our current, very loose plans are to spend that week in Montezuma. Has anyone been there? It's supposed to be a nice little hippie/surf/yoga town that meets all of our requirements. Ie. houses for rent, a beach, an organic cafe and plenty of Imperial beer. Bonus points for hikes to waterfalls close by. And perhaps most importantly, it's only a few hours from San Jose. We're trying to avoid long days in the car, especially because Costa Rican roads aren't the most reliable. From there it's only 3 or so more hours down to Manuel Antonio, which is definitely doable.

So what I'm asking is, do any of your have 1) other recommendations for towns that also meet our criteria and/or 2) if you've been to Montezuma do you have any recs if we do end up staying there? An excellent 2 bedroom house to rent would be an especially good tip. You guys always seem to come up with good advice.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuscan White Bean Soup

It seems absolutely ludicrous to be posting a recipe for bean soup at the moment. It is SWELTERING in LA. It was 101 at my house yesterday, which is less than a mile from the ocean. And today it's a lower temperature, but as humid as an orchid greenhouse. I would no more eat soup than put on a fur coat and run laps around an asphalt parking lot. But I've been meaning to post this forever and I'm aware that some places in the country are actually experiencing fall and cooler weather and maybe even soup.

I made this recipe up from the top of a take away container from the Zinc Cafe. It was delicious when we had their version in May and it was equally delicious when I made it last month at home. I added kale, because everything is better with kale, but other than that I just followed the ingredients listed on the lid.

Tuscan White Bean Soup with Kale

Adapted from the Zinc Cafe in Corona Del Mar

2 cups (more or less) dried cannelleni beans
soaked overnight in plenty of filtered water

1/4 c olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 - 1.5 cups carrots cut to a small dice

8 (or so) ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

1-3 bunches tuscan kale, de-ribbed and blanced in salted water for a few minutes and drained.

2 springs rosemary
a lot of fresh thyme
leaves from a few springs of oregano
pinch of red chili flakes

salt and pepper

Beans: after soaking overnight, bring to a boil and then simmer until soft, about 1 1/2 hours. Once the beans are done, add 1 T of salt so the broth and beans taste delicious on their own. (Do not drain or discard broth).

Cook onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat with a pinch of salt until soft. Add rosemary, thyme, and oregano (all chopped however you like). Then add carrots and cook until mixture is soft and tastes good. Add salt and pepper if necessary (as Alice Waters always instructs) so the mixture tastes good as you go. When aromatics are tasty, add tomatoes and juice. It is my personal opinion that peeling, seeding and chopping tomatoes is basically kitchen heroics, and not altogether necessary. But it does make for a prettier, unseedy soup. And it's really not that bad. Finally add a pinch of chili flakes. Cook until well mixed.

Add cooked beans and enough broth to make a good soup. If you don't have enough broth, add more water. Bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer. Stir in kale.

Taste soup. Add salt and pepper if necessary and garnish with parmesan when serving.

This is even better the next day, though you may have to add a bit more liquid after it has soaked in the refrigerator over night. I decided to skip the vegetable broth and instead use the bean cooking liquid, but you could make stock first if you're so inclined.

Those of you in So. Cal, tuck this away for December when it's cooler out. I promise it is delicious.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Catching up

Ooh, last week was crazy. Apologies for the lack of posting. Getting ready for Hitched took up every moment of my non-mommy time. But it was such a cute event. We'll be posting photos and projects on 100 Layer Cake all week, but for now here's just a teensy peek:

(Heirloom LA cocktails... yum yum.)

I had the most fun arranging flowers for our table.

And because I'm a week behind, I haven't even posted about the Heath LA Craft Bazaar from last weekend. It was great too. So many lovely things, including tiles and little wooden toys and Matteo linens for practically a song.

And Krank Press, who I love.

Just when I was giving in to the pretty light of fall, (and beets and squash at the market), it's super summer all of a sudden again. Or for the first time all year, actually.

AND, a birth center opened up literally in our neighborhood. Isn't that crazy? We loved the UCLA midwives, but I'm definitely curious what the Sanctuary Birth Center has to offer for our next babe. It's going to be an amazing resource for families around West LA. Very very exciting. But here's my question: What does a birth center offer that a home birth doesn't?

More this week, for sure.

Friday, September 24, 2010

7 months

So, ultimate mommy cliche coming... it goes soooooo fast. I was anticipating the 6 month mark so much, because it seemed like a huge milestone somehow. That he would sleep and be extra cute and all sorts of things. And he is and does and miraculously started taking a bottle among other things. But then I sort of imagined that things would pause for a while. That he would stay 6 months for a bit so we could just take it all in.

Turns out no. He's 7 months today. And I'm kind of freaking out.

He likes rolling in the grass and feeling things with his fingers and chewing on sticks.

Oh and starting two days ago, he crawls. Luckily he's still a little wobbly and not very fast, but things are changing around our house.

He's discovered he can go where he wants (even if it takes a while) and he can get into everything. He especially likes baby's breath. Turns out it's excellent baby entertainment. The grabbing and ripping and then attempting to eat the little flowers.

Hope you all have a lovely weekend. I'm so looking forward to NOT having Hitched projects covering every surface of our house. But it was incredibly fun and soooooooooooooo cute. Back with more pics next week. (Of Hitched, not my baby. Don't worry.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The best baby tees - on mega sale

Moms, listen here. Go as fast as humanly possibly to MilkShop and purchase enough C&C California tees to last through your baby's first 3-4 years.

They are the PERFECT t-shirt. Super soft, great colors and they're nice and long so you don't have to worry about bare bellies always creeping out.

I bought 6 last week and I think I'm going in for my second round. They're $5 each right now, which is literally cheaper than they'd be used at a consignment store.

BTW, my baby is officially better dressed than I am. He has new designer sportswear and I have spitty old rags. But these are the sacrifices we make, aren't they?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Today... my parents' 33rd anniversary. To celebrate they are in Peru hiking the Inca Trail, wearing baby alpaca knit caps, and feasting on Guinea pig. And I will say this, in honor of my parents and all parents out there:

You can never truly understand how much your parents love you until you have a child of your own.

(Here they are hanging with their first grandbaby in Yosemite.)

My appreciation for the job of parenthood (quite obviously) has grown one thousand fold over the last six months. Sometimes I can almost feel my heart breaking for my parents when I think about what it must have been like raising my brother and I. Not that we were bad. We were probably average in terms of bad vs. goodness, but just the sheer emotion that goes into practically everything you do for your children must have been exhausting, exhilarating, and at times heart-wrenching. Every time we fought or bumped our heads or went off to camp or even to a friend's house for the night, I'm sure a little piece of their hearts went with us.

And I sort of understood that in an intellectual way, but not in the entirely raw way I understand it now. It's just a different kind of love, that I wouldn't trade for anything in whole wide universe.

This weekend I will be recovering from a cold, which I caught from my baby. Thank you baby. I will take anything you want to give me.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The best yoga mats & a good cause

I don't normally post stuff like this because it doesn't involve delicious food or pretty projects or pictures of my baby. But because my brother-in-law Sky is the CEO of Manduka, maker of the best mats in the universe, I must. (He's also the doting husband of beautiful Melanie.) I'm sure some of you out there are big yoga peeps and if you are, you probably already know all about the coveted black mat that will last your entire life. Their other mats are great too and come in much yummier colors.

This month, in honor of their very pretty new website and Yoga Aid this weekend, Manduka is giving 10% off all online purchases, PLUS they're donating an extra 10% of all sales to Yoga Aid. Which is an organization that essentially raises money through people practicing yoga and gives it to a number of different charities around the world.

If you happen to be in the market for a new mat, now would be the time to get one!

Use the promo code GIVELOVE for the entire month of September.

Liberty scraps from the mail

Fabric, I love thee. Even though I am barely competent with my sewing machine and have learned that sewing things yourself, while satisfying, is not necessarily less expensive than buying them premade.

I was hunting around Etsy for some bits for our Hitched decor and found this lovely Liberty print with tiny white leaves. Which I thought was black and white. So I purchased it, along with 2 other little pieces for good measure. Once you're paying for shipping from the UK, you might as well add a few extras to your purchase, after all.

And then my little package came in the mail yesterday (which I had already forgotten about, is that a sign of a problem?), and my perfect B&W Liberty print is actually navy. But still very very pretty. And by some stroke of luck, I actually picked two other patterns that make up the perfect trio.

If only I were a quilter, and had about 23 times as much fabric, I'd be set. So the question is, what do I do with these? Again, if I had a girl baby the possibilities would be virtually endless. But I don't. Any ideas? I'm actually don't mind just keeping them close to my breast and adoring them for their perfect, soft, silky cotton-ness. But I would also like to actually make something from them one day.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

vintage bath toys

My mom saves everything. EVERYTHING. She has a whole box of baby clothes (mostly mine, which wouldn't be great for a little boy), and little blankets and things that my grandma made. Among which she found our Fisher Price bath toys. Which as it turns out are a huge hit even on the rug in the living room.

Dashiell doesn't have room for toys in his bath at the moment, since he bathes in a big bucket. But we're getting close to moving on to the real bath and then I'm sure these will excellent entertainment.

Do you know what's even better about these? They were made in the US in 1974 (which is curious since I was born 4 years later) and they're not the scary kind of plastic that everything is made of today. And, as part of our greener home mission, it's always good to reuse instead of buy new.

Here comes the giant baby, capsizing his little boats and torturing the captain.

Delicious, as always.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Buttermilk Flaxseed Pancakes

These are quite delicious. They hail from my friend Becca, whose husband's dad has been making them since he can remember. I tasted them when I was visiting with her family (she's my BFF Laura's big sis) in San Diego and have finally gotten around to making them myself.

Our babe is still a little young for pancakes, but these are great kid food too. In fact it's one of Becca's son's staple menu items.

Do you want to hear a most satisfying detail? We made butter on Friday night and the leftover buttermilk went into our pancakes. How great is that? I was very pleased. And the homemade butter is something else. It's so creamy.

Buttermilk Flaxseed Pancakes

1 c all purpose flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c ground flaxseed meal
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

4 T melted butter
2 eggs
2 c buttermilk

Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk eggs until well mixed. Add butter and whisk until well combined. Add buttermilk and mix.

Fold in dry ingredients until just combined.

Grease skillet with butter (or oil) and I think everyone knows how to make pancakes. I added sliced bananas to some of ours and they were delicious.

If you want to skip the buttermilk you can substitute 2/3 cup of yogurt and 1 1/3 cup of water (or possibly milk?). Which makes them, I don't know, possibly healthier?

Either way they are delicious.

Monday, September 13, 2010

things grown, things eaten

Mixed carrots.

Pretty washed and lined up.

Peas & avocado, roasted sweet potato with a teensie bit of cinnamon and ginger. These would be for the baby, not for us.

Salsa (stored in a nice glass jar!).

Roasted homegrown pasilla chiles for tacos. (Caved and bought corn tortillas. I was desperate and they are made in LA so I felt a little less bad.)

And our tower of sunflowers. I've always wondered what the plant looks like that grows cut sunflowers. Apparently it's a huge cone-like thing? Though this could just be a mutant specific to our yard.

Also, ventured to Waterloo & City for early drinks (it's right in our 'hood), I worked on a bunch of stuff for Hitched (our table is going to be tres cute!), and Brock made me do a 10K on Sunday morning. 10Ks used to be a piece of cake, just for the record. It was hard and I was completely wasted for the rest of the day. But as a reward we made banana pancakes slathered in homemade butter and maple syrup. Kind of worth it.

Hope you all had delicious weekends too.

Friday, September 10, 2010

the best nursing tanks - threads for thought

Finally, after 6 months of nursing I've discovered the perfect nursing tank. Actually I discovered it a few months ago, but I've just come to realize that it is in fact the perfect top for breastfeeding. And it's not supposed to be a nursing tank or anything. I tried a bunch of those and don't really LOVE any of them. They're fussy and don't fit exactly right and are crazy expensive for how ugly they are. But the Threads For Thought basic tank, available at Whole Foods for $8 (!!!), is quite excellent.

It's super soft.
It has thick-ish straps so I can wear a nursing bra under it.
It's a wee bit stretchy, so I can just pull the neck down to nurse but the seams don't rip out.
And the organic things is a nice bonus.

I think I have 5 of these and I wear them to bed, to yoga, and around town.

Also, mine are a large and I think that's the perfect size since the extra room allows for nursing. (For comparison, I wear a Gap size small and that's sometimes a little big.)

For $8 you can't really go wrong. And now that I've ripped all the seams out of the straps of my other tank tops, these are pretty much all I wear.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

less waste kitchen alternatives

In news from the semi-waste free kitchen front, I thought I'd share what we've been using instead of disposables. We haven't developed the perfect set up yet, let me just warn you. But we're heading in the right direction.

Napkins - stupidly obvious - you just use cloth napkins. This is soooooo easy, I can't believe I didn't make the change earlier. We've been using them for the most part for a few months, but cutting out the paper altogether is a breeze. I've been making my own, because they are just rectangular pieces of fabric and I can sew things like that, and it's been pretty fun. Though kind of a lot of work, I'm not going to lie. Not the sewing per se, the ironing and pinning and pressing takes up all the time.

Paper towels - also incredibly easy once you make the commitment. I've had 3 dozen Unpaper Towels that I bought on etsy a year ago (when Joslyn posted about them) and now we're actually using them with gusto. I just keep them stacked up on the counter where the paper towels used to be and toss them into the laundry when they've been used. A better system would be to have little "clean" and "dirty" baskets somewhere in the kitchen, but I haven't gotten that far. I don't think we'll be going back to paper when the experiment is over.

OH HELLO! Athena Creates now makes little wooden bins made specifically for her towels. I'm feeling an etsy purchase coming on...

Plastic baggies - They are incredibly convenient, but I'm telling you, you can live without them. We've been using a bunch of different things but I do love our glass storage containers from Crate & Barrel. We have two sets and use them constantly. Plus I love the french terrine jars from the Container Store (my faves are not online, sadly) for things like baby food and cooked beans and the like. Obviously any glass jars will work, but I like to try to stick with those that are all glass and use a rubber gasket. It turns out the other kind (with the ring and lid) actually have BPA in the liner. Isn't that shocking??? That's another post altogether.

Freezer storage - This one is a little trickier. But for the most part, I use the same glass jars. You can actually freeze things in glass, with a lid that seals, as long as you leave enough room to accommodate for expansion. As in, if you freeze stock in a glass jar it will expand and break said jar if there's not enough air space to start. Learned that one the hard way!

I freeze baby food in little jars, stock in big jars, and actually keep all of my grains, beans, and nuts in the freezer as well. I buy that stuff in bulk and because I'm paranoid about moths, just dump it into large glass canisters and store everything in the freezer.

For buying in bulk, you can use whatever cloth/muslin bags you have lying around and avoid the plastic bags altogether. (if you don't have any, you could try these, these, these, or these.)

And, for your waste-free-ish kitchen, I cannot stress how great it is to have LOTS of tea towels at your disposal. I'm partial to pretty ones of course, but the workhouse of tea towels is still the simple white and red one from IKEA. They're $0.49 each. I probably have at least 30.

Now, the problem areas.

Foil. Haven't found a solution. But you can buy recycled foil at the grocery store and then recycle it again after you use it.

Saran wrap. Sometimes this is kind of useful. Not sure if there's a good alternative.

Freezer bags. In some cases nothing else will do.

And finally produce bags. Rachel uses muslin bags, but I've never felt like cloth produce bags actually keep things nice and crisp.

If someone has a good recommendation for any of these things, please share!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

this and that

A few things I've been up to of late... and by late I mean in the last 5 days.

more ciabatta

they look good, but honestly they leave a little something to be desired.

The squirrels have been feasting on our sunflowers.

Piles of fabric everywhere.

Major crafting for Hitched.

Are any of you going to it? It's going to be a pretty awesome party. We'll have a DIY table set up so please stop by and say hi!

documenting a pregnancy, in style

I saw this on Highchair Critics this morn. It's so sweet. Makes me want another tiny baby already! But I think we will be waiting a bit. You know, since we've just started to feel like real people again.

Super busy weekend with lots going on this week, but I'll be back shortly with more to post.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

pretty triangley jewelry

I happened upon these pretties from spinthread on etsy the other day. They are quite marvelous. Have they already made the rounds on the blogs? Probably. I'm never first with the etsy finds. But aren't they good?

I bet they would be good baby entertainment if I had one for myself. Tempting.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

the daily routine, 6 months

Here's how I generally find Dashiell when he's woken up from his nap:

And that's after at least 10 minutes of talking to himself.

Then we go into the living room and I feed him. (No pictures of this, for obvious reasons).

And then he scoots around the floor, playing with my iPhone, the remote control, and various other favorites. He's very interested in crawling these days.

Sitting he's already mastered. Isn't he a good poser?

I think I might be really posting these photos because I love his rainbow tshirt and new orange fuzzi bunz. It's more satisfying than I anticipated to dress him. I'll admit that.