Friday, October 30, 2009


I had an early wake up call from the little man this morning, and then he went back to sleep, but I was awake for good.  What to do before sunrise at the start of a busy day?  Sip a little coffee, and peruse the internet for a few, just to get the brain warmed up.  I found myself on The Sartorialist, and this photo, from the streets of Milan, caught my eye.

There are so many things I love about this photo: her unapologetically make-up-free face, her practical yet chic and beautiful ballet flats, her earth-toned dress made stylish by the belted waist, the rolled up sleeves, and the different colored bracelets on both wrists.  I also love her cruiser bike with double wicker baskets, and wish I a) had one and b) lived in a flat enough city to do all my errands by bike (picturing myself huffing and puffing it up the steep hill to our house with full baskets of groceries... a call to 911 would be in order at the top).  Her easy style and relaxed shoulders appealed to me, and made me want to hop a plane to Italy.  I imagine sipping an espresso at a cafe with the husband, while the Italian grandmas of my dreams coo over Baby J.  Not such a bad daydream to kick start a busy day...
Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Busy, busy, busy.

Things just continue to be a busy blur at the moment.  There is lots and lots (and lots) of work stuff going for me, including many after-hours obligations, and ditto for the husband.  We have great friends coming to visit this weekend (yay!), and a crawling, solid-food eating little man keeping us on our toes.  Seems like there is just enough time to tackle the day's to do list and collapse in bed right now, which makes me think ahead to what I might like to do with some downtime when we get some again.  Just a few things...

I want to put together our jogging stroller, as the little guy is finally sturdy enough to ride in it.  I think he will love it, and it is perfect timing considering I think I can now officially say I am back to running.  I did three miles at lunch with my work gals yesterday and it was fab.u.lous.  Boy did I need those endorphins something fierce.  I can't wait to get the husband on the road again too.  We fell in love while training for a marathon, and really got to know eachother over all the miles we covered together during that time.  I can't wait to run as a family! 

I want to check out this yoga studio nearby.  Ready for a nice, sweaty bikram class, even if I can only make it once a month.  Love the name too!  Ha!

I want to make this Green Soup with Ginger recipe from Heidi Swanson. Nothing goes better with a health kick than cooking up recipes from 101 Cookbooks.  I just love her natural approach to cooking and the way she takes common vegetarian dishes and ups the flavor profiles until all of the ingredients sing.  Her cookbook, Super Natural Cooking, is one of my absolute favorites on my shelf.  I also want to make Smitten Kitchen's Jalapeño-Cheddar Scones to go with a big pot of my friend Brian's delicious chicken chili (recipe to come).

I need to give my iPod some love.  I have had the same playlists on there for 2 years, I am embarassed to say.  I loaded it for a trip to Mexico we took in December 2007 and it still has my "tanning mix" and "holiday tunes" on it.  Pathetic.  My friend who is coming this weekend has the iPod to end all iPods, and I must get all kinds of music from her!  Ray LaMontagne, vintage Bonnie Raitt, and her brilliant yoga mixes (she is an instructor with great taste in practice tunes) top my list if things I'd like to burn.  Prepare to surrender your iPod for downloadin', Mama S!

Finally, in my continued efforts to turn my home into a coffeehouse, I'd like to track down some proper cinnamon and cocoa shakers, so as to professionally accessorize my home-brewed lattes.  Yes, I am getting a little obsessed. Mostly, I just look forward to spending some QT with the husband. He's been amazing at carrying me through this busy time at work, and I'd like to return the favor.  It is almost time for snowy evenings by the fire, and I can't wait.   There are books to read and naps to take.  Who knew I could look forward to winter so much?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Mothership

Ahhh, Anthropologie.  I affectionately refer to this palace of whimsical home goods and cute togs as The Mothership.  As in, I belong there; as in, it calls me to it and I am powerless to resist.  Because I am a "save it for a rainy day" kinda gal, I have been sitting on a lovely gift certificate to The Mothership for over a year!  I've decided it is time to spend it, as I am feeling shop-ish, but should really keep my wallet under lock and key when it comes to Anthro.  So, I've got $100 to spend and that is that.  Being that I am a shopper who ponders, analyzes and ponders some more before a purchase, I have put some serious consideration into how to use this treat.  I have come up with the following:

The Pucker Up Cardigan in eggplant.  Looks cute and comfortable, an oh so practical for a nursing mom (access is key).  I need these kind of layers for work, so this would be rather practical. And I could fit in now and when (if) I shed the baby weight as well.

Beso V-neck in black.  On sale!  Looks to be just the flattering cut I need right now, and because it is on sale, I could also stock up on tights for the winter. Cute. Flirty. Fun.

I've been wanting a pair of trouser jeans for awhile, and these Daughters Of The Liberation Dark Denim High Waist Trousers come in on budget.  However, I fear that the pocket placement will not do my post-baby bod any favors + why buy jeans right now when I am in such an awkward post-baby bod phase?  And "High Waist"?  I am skeptical.  I am pretty short-waisted, and these could potential come right up below my chest depending on how high they actually are. Yet, they look so cute on the dummy and are very affordable.  Hmmm....

Or do I chuck the whole fashion thing, and put this baby towards one of their gorgeously jewel-hued quilts I've long coveted?  I think the Alhambra bedding is lovely enough to make our guests forget they're sleeping in a little boy's room (we are renting, and see no point in replacing the little-boy theme in the room we're using as a guest room on our dime. Peeling circus animal wallpaper border on yellow paint with turquoise trim it is! At least for now).  Seriously, how pretty is this...

Window-shopping and pondering what to buy are almost as fun as actually buying something :).  
In any case, what to do?  Thoughts?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sweet Tooth

I have a work dinner to attend on Thursday night, and I've promised to bring a dessert.   What to bring?  A weeknight baking project needs to be simple, involve ingredients that already exist in the fridge and pantry (or can be gotten with just the quickest of trips in and out of the store), and provide maximum results with minimum effort.  A few ideas come to mind:

1) Rice Krispie Treats.  Yes, my friends, an oldie but a goodie.  I can't even remember the last time I made these, but doesn't the gooey, simple goodness sound so appealing?  When we had friends over for dinner recently, talk turned to favorite and long-forgotten cereals, and I suddenly had a vision of that brilliant invention of the late 90s, Rice Krispie Treats Cereal.  One of my favorite family vacation memories is of one of my sister's and me eating an entire box of these at midnight in Cape Cod, in front of the Saturday Night Live's Best of Chris Farley, laughing until we cried.  Good stuff.  Ever since that conversation, I've been itching to make these.  And what could be easier?

2) Classic Brownies Cockaigne from the Joy of Cooking.  These are made from scratch, but are still simple and make it from bowl to oven in about a half an hour; not too shabby or overly ambitious for a Wednesday.  I like to take them out of the oven before they are completely cooked, as they retain an irresistible gooeyness this way.  Only problem is, they may never make it out of the house.  They are that good. I have been baking these brownies since high school and still am not sure how to pronounce that c-word, by the way.

3) Ina's Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars I've been wanting to try and make these for ever.  How gorgeous are they?  What's more, both the hostess of this shindig and I are confessed peanut butter addicts, so these are sure to be a hit, even if she and I just sit around and eat them ourselves.  However,  Ina can sometimes be a not-so-much-of-a-weeknight-chef kind of a recipe writer.  The woman lives sans children in an East Hampton manse with no-doubt a boatload of hired help.  It is her job to flit around her stunning, spotless, black and white kitchen crafting delicious yet complex baked bars.  It is my job to work at my actual job, and to feed and play with my son, and converse with the husband in the evening, not break a sweat dropping globs of peanut butter on pre-made dough.  These may have to wait for a Sunday. 

4) Vermont Cookie Love Cookie Dough  When is refrigerated cookie dough not a thing to be guilty about?  When it is made with love by a local company with all natural ingredients.  My work gals and I are obsessed with Vermont Cookie Love, and I don't think any of them would mind if I showed up with some of these beauties.  And what could be better than slicing up some dough, popping it in the oven, putting my feet up with a magazine, having the house fill with that amazing baking cookie smell, and then having but one dish to wash... the baking sheet?  Perhaps this one is a no brainer...

What is your go to bake sale/potluck dessert recipe?  Any favorites I'm forgetting?  And how much do you want one of these and a cold glass of milk right now?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Aspirational Fall

Remember all that idyllic apple harvesting we did a few weeks ago?  Golden leaves were falling from the sky, just a hint of crispness tinged the air, and I had visions of all kinds of fall activities unfolding ahead of us.  Instead, the month of October has screamed by at lightening speed, and those apples froze on our porch during an unexpected hard frost and were rendered useless.  Suddenly we're talking about plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas and all things 2010.  This got me thinking of all the things I would love to do before autumn is gone.  Namely:
1) Jar something fall-ish.  Pumpkin butter, apple butter or applesauce.  I may have already missed the boat on this one, but last year I made the most amazing pumkin butter and we enjoyed it for months swirled into plain yogurt or spread on buttered toast. Delish.
2) Get caught up on Baby J's baby book.  It is currently gathering dust.  Bad Mom.  And I realize that this isn't particularly fall-ish, just overdue.  And actually a perfect activity for colder winter days.  Problem solved!  Love that.
3) Have everyone bathed, clothed attractively and in a smiling mood simultaneously with a third party around, in order to have a short but successful photo shoot and procure an adorable family photo for a lovely homemade holiday card to be sent out before or during the actual (2009) holiday season.
4) Do a few really Vermont-y things... like head over to Waterbury and go to the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, do a little hiking in the mountains, and cruise by the Red Hen Bakery for goodies on the way home.  I was thinking that I'd also love to hit up the Shelburne Orchards Annual Pie Fest, but what do you know, I just checked, and it was already a month ago.  Where is time going?!  Seriously!
5) Carve our pumpkins and roast some pepitas.  At this rate we'll be making our jack-o-lanterns on Halloween morning, which has already been reserved for frantically buying enough candy to serve our expected several hundred trick-or-treaters (apparently, this neighborhood is the place to be on 10/31).  Must get to carving...
What do you hope to do before the snow comes?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Day of Rest

Good things that happened this weekend:
1) I worked all day Saturday (well, that's not so good, but the events I worked on went well and are now over, and that's very good).
2) A seasonal flu shot was procured for Baby J!  Whew!  And he took said flu shot and his six month vaccines like a champ, without spiking a fever or getting any sickie symptoms at all (which is what happened with his four month vaccines, which was not fun).
3) He also started saying "mamamamama".  Which is pretty awesome.  I am not going to give that legit first word status until it is actually directed at me, but it's amazing to hear nonetheless.  Makes my heart sing.  I am also pretty sure he said "Obama" to another baby at the grocery store, but I could be wrong.
4) I took my first run back (not counting my run in July which nearly killed me -- too hot, too long, too soon -- and then it scared me off of running again until now), and didn't die, puke, keel over on the side of the road or cry.  In fact, I feel pretty good!  Woo hoo!
5) I finally had the time to do a bit of cooking today.  I love to cook up a whole bunch of different things on Sunday, in order to have lots of good leftovers and lunch options for the week.  With another busy work week coming up, I really went for it today.  On the menu:
For Sunday dinner
Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken
Tassajara Warm Red Cabbage Salad from 101 Cookbooks (had to use the Cabbage Monster before it turned on us)
Cheesy Herbed Polenta
For weekday lunches
Southwestern Chicken and Orzo Salad
The roast chicken is a simplified version of Ina Garten's Perfect Roast Chicken from the first Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.  I've modified it to make it more simple and added my own secret ingredients, and it is always a huge hit.  This is just a classic, flavorful, easy recipe, and perfect for a Sunday night, as there are so many uses for leftover chicken during the week.  

1 yellow onion, sliced
1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken
1 large bunch fresh thyme
1 lemon, cut in half
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves
olive oil
Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and paprika
Ginger Ale or apple juice or cider for basting
1) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2) Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken with cold water.  Take a handful of kosher salt and give the chicken a salt scrub.  Pat dry with paper towels.
3) Line a roasting pan with sliced onions and place the chicken on top. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of the lemon, and all the garlic. Stuff sage leaves (secret ingredient #1) under the skin around the breasts. Close the cavity with poultry pins or tie the legs together across the cavity with kitchen string.
4) Pour about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the chicken, and cover generously with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.  Finish with a sprinkling of paprika.
5) Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Baste every 20 minutes with ginger ale or apple juice or cider (secret ingredient #2 -- there is something about the sugars in the liquids that make the meat a little sweeter and caramelize on the skin -- truly delicious!).

Southwestern Chicken and Orzo Salad

This was a favorite recipe when I was pregnant.  It is packed with healthy protein and folate, with some satisfying carbiness to boot.  You could easily leave out the chicken for a vegetarian salad.
1 lb. orzo pasta
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
8 oz. pepper jack cheese, grated
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained
1/2 chicken, shredded (it is up to you how much light vs. dark meat to use according to your preference)
juice of 1 lime
olive oil, red wine vinegar, sea salt, pepper and hot sauce (we like Cholula) to taste
1) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the orzo, and cook according to package instructions, 8-10 minutes, until done.  Drain, and rinse immediately with cold water to arrest cooking (this will keep you from having a gelatinous mass to deal with when you are ready to toss all the ingredients together).
2) Add tomatoes, cheese, cilantro, onion, beans and chicken to a large mixing bowl. Add pasta. Toss thoroughly.
3) Dress to taste with lime juice, olive oil, and hot sauce creating the blend of moisture, acidity, and heat that you prefer.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Says the husband, "This stuff is so awesome, it would even be good with tofu."

Sunday dinner in all its glory:

Now it is time for me to put my feet up and enjoy the rest of this day of rest.
Have a wonderful start to your week!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bad Mom: Halloween Edition

Okay, so here's the deal... Halloween is upon us.  I have a love/hate relationship with this holiday.  As I child, I obviously loved it.  Not only did I love dressing up and bringing in a haul of candy myself, one of my favorite parts of Halloween was dressing up my little sisters.  One of my sisters would demand upwards of three costumes per Halloween, and it was always my pleasure to deliver.  I loved putting unique costumes together, often from items found in our supply of dress up clothes.  Now, as an adult, I don't so much love the holiday, except in my role as a candy-monger to the neighborhood children.  I never seem to have time to put together a costume, and honestly can't deal with the idea of sitting in my office in costume, especially when it is hard enough to get dressed in normal clothes these days!

When the little guy comes of trick-or-treating age, I look forward to putting my crafty-big-sister hat back on and creating all kinds of fabulous costumes for him and his future siblings.  But this year?  Let's be real.  The little man: a) has no idea what is going on, b) doesn't take kindly to having things tied to him (hat w/ ear flaps takes a bit of convincing, to say nothing of a lion's mane or what have you), c) goes to bed at 7:30pm.  He will be none the wiser if we don't costume him this year.  Yet, "what is Baby J going to be for Halloween?" is the question I am fielding more than any other these days, and I can't help but feel like a Bad Mom when I answer "nothing?" -- which is why I have been going with the safe answer of "we're not sure yet."

I can't decide whether it is practical and pragmatic to spare Baby J being put into a get-up that he doesn't understand, or whether I am robbing him of a quintessential American rite-of-passage because we happen to be particularly busy and not in a Halloween frame of mind this year.  I may need to eat a bowl of candy corn while I ponder this one.

Dress-up costume brilliance circa 1985: we have island girl, ballerina and sailor/ballerina (??).
Someday I'll get the magic back.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Semi-Homemade. Namaste.

Quickie Indian.  It's what's for dinner.
So, I know I sound like a broken record, but yes, it is a tad busy around here these days and weeknight cooking time is getting seriously pinched.  But this being (non-Burlington) Vermont and us being food snobs on a budget, takeout isn't the best dinner option.  Takeout can be expensive, unhealthy and full of hidden fats and sodium.  Homemade is healthier, and in some cases easier (opening jars vs. finding parking and shlepping the baby in and out of the car and a restaurant in an awkward carseat-chair-thing while toting hot, greasy grub). Semi-homemade is the best choice during times like these, and semi-homemade Indian even makes you feel a little exotic and fancy in the process.  A little strategic shopping in the ethnic isle of the grocery, and your pantry is stocked with the goods to make a speedy weeknight dinner instead of picking up the pizza menu. The above pictured dinner is healthy and prepared literally in minutes. 

We love Seeds of Change simmer sauces.  They are intensely flavorful and very healthy, and we always have some in the pantry.  Cube some chicken or tofu and throw it in a heated pot of one of these babies, and your protein is prepared in 20 minutes.  For a veg, fresh is best, but when there is no time for chopping, we love the Jyoti line of Indian sides, particularly this Delhi Saag, which allows you to fix a tasty and unique veggie side with a few twists of the can opener and 10 minutes on low heat in a saucepan.  Prepare some basmati rice to go on the side, and presto!  You have a yummy, seemingly fancy Indian dinner in just 20 minutes with almost no clean-up.  Perfect for a psycho Wednesday.  Namaste.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


This stuff rocks:

From a lovely little shop in the quaint and quiet hamlet of Woodstock, Vermont.  My mom really fancies their beautiful handmade soaps, and I recently stopped in to pick her up a massive bar.  Told to pick out a treat for myself on this errand, this baby caught my eye.  I love all things mint, and the energizing tingle they lend to your skin.  Lavender is soothing and calming, perfect both before bed, and at the start of a day that threatens to get the best of you.  Today was such a day, and I arrived home truly bedraggled from a very long one at the office.  After the little guy went down, I took a piping hot shower and then slathered on this stuff.  Ahhhhh.... delicious relaxation.  Time to hop in bed smelling like a day spa, do a little reading, and let the lavender lull me off to sleep.  I hate to post any competition for Lunaroma in the handmade VT aromatherapy category, but this one is a real winner. 

My (other) Baby

One of my most fun birthday presents this year was a wonderful gift certificate to one of my favorite stores, Williams-Sonoma.  This store is basically like a wonderland for the husband and me.  We spend hours discussing the various tools and gadgets our "dream kitchen" will someday hold (wood-fired brick pizza oven, dedicated canning kitchen, slop sink for things like cleaning freshly caught fish or freshly dug veggies, rotisserie oven, kegerator... need I go on?), so naturally, this amazing kitchen emporium is a grown-up candy store for us.  When I opened this fabulous gift card, we immediately began discussing candidates for the next addition to our kitchen.  Would it be the All-Clad Deluxe Slow Cooker?  Visions of stews and weeknight dinners left to simmer to deliciousness during our work week danced in my head.  Or perhaps a replacement for our skanky toaster oven, which one or the other of us (I can't remember) has owned since way before we even started dating?  Perhaps another piece of Le Crueset, which I consider to the be the ultimate heirloom-piece investment that will one day be in the kitchen of our grandchildren and their children?  We circled the Williams-Sonoma in Burlington several times as I pondered this conundrum.  We took a break for one of these to help our thought process:

 Yes, this is the famous Red Onion Sandwich.  Any meat-eating UVM alum still daydreams about these Burlington beauties... turkey, bacon, Granny Smith apples, red onion, sundried-tomato mayo and smoked Gruyere, best served on thick slices of homemade honey oat bread.  To die for.  But I digress...

Finally, the husband urged me to be totally frivolous.  Is this not what birthdays are all about?  Sure toast and stew are household staples which could use a humble appliance to make them better.  Sure pots and pans are both utilitarian and timeless pieces.  But what is the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning, that makes me swoon upon first sip, that I would have every single day were it not for the unreasonable cost and lack of time I have for standing in lines waiting en route to work?  My friends, I am talking about the great love of my life (after my boys, of course):  the latte.  Please let me introduce you to the newest member of our family:

Oh, Cuisinart Espresso Maker, we were meant to be together.  Where have you been all my life?  Particularly my life as a telecommuting mom, as nothing ups your productivity like getting amped on home-brewed espresso first thing in the morning.  The husband has already become an expert barista, and is putting the local coffee shop to shame with his beauteous lattes.  Plus, the way I figure it, based on the price per latte, this baby is going to earn its keep in less than two months.  A game changer, for certain.  I just had to share my joy.

E-mail inbox, prepare to be emptied in several espresso-addled minutes flat.
I also stocked up on this stuff:

If you are an espresso-junkie who spends a lot of time on the homefront, I cannot recommend this purchase/investment highly enough.  Slow cooker, you will have to wait.  Husband, thank you for the encouragement and the perfectly frothed latte this morning.  Make mine a double...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Enchilada Love

I love enchiladas.  So does the husband... with a passion.  Homemade enchiladas with fresh sauce truly blow away any experience you've had with this dish prepared with a canned or jarred sauce.  They are a little labor intensive, but well worth it.  However, I admit that when I claimed they were a "weeknight meal", I had never attempted them on a weeknight since the arrival of Baby J.  In life with a baby, I guess they are more of a weekend affair.  If you had a very mellow weeknight with plenty of time to prepare dinner, you could try them then too, but these days that is not so much the case around here.

In any case, tomatillos are in season in the early autumn, and this is a perfect time to concoct a bubbling, warm tray of enchiladas for friends on a Saturday night, which is what we did last weekend.  What you see pictured here is a double batch, with one tray of chicken and one tray of veggie, to please all of our guests; but I'm providing the recipe for a single batch here, with a variety of options for fillings to suit your fancy.  Don't be scared off by the process, these enchiladas are well worth the trouble!

Sweet Mama Jane's Chronic* Enchiladas Verdes
*The husband's highest endorsement adjective
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 lbs. tomatillos, papery skins removed, rinsed and cut in half
1 onion, finely diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 small jalapeño chopped
12 corn tortillas
8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar or jack cheese
Sour cream and extra chopped cilantro for garnish
Filling of choice... either:
*2 poached chicken breasts, shredded by hand and tossed with some salt.  You could do just chicken, or add a cubed roasted sweet potato for more bulk and flavor.
*The sweet potato and black bean mixture from my burrito recipe.
*1 zuchini and 1 summer squash, chopped and sauteed with a chopped onion, and seasoned with salt, pepper, cumin and cayenne.
*Great creative!  Try shredded steak or sauteed spinach and mushrooms.... the possibilities are endless.
    Make the sauce:
    1) Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet.  Add the chopped onion and jalapeño and sauté until the onion softens. Add the tomatillos, season with salt and continue cooking until wilted. Turn off the heat and let cool for a few minutes.
    2) Pour the contents of the skillet into a food processor or blender, add the cilantro and blend until smooth. Pour the sauce into a bowl.
    Assemble the enchiladas:
    1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread a little enchilada sauce on the bottom of a large baking dish.
    2) Make a little assembly line by the stove.  You want to have a hot, dry skillet in which to warm the tortillas in order to make them pliable.  Near the hot skillet, have an empty plate on which to roll the enchiladas, and bowls of both your filling and the shredded cheese prepared.
    3) Working with one tortilla at a time, soften each in the hot skillet for about 10 seconds per side. Lay each tortilla on a plate and sprinkle about 1/3 cup of your chosen filling and a bit of cheese in the middle and roll. Repeat, lining up the enchiladas tightly in the baking dish.
    4) When you've rolled all of your enchiladas, pour the sauce over them and spread evenly across the pan.  Top with the remaining shredded cheese.
    5) Bake for about 30 minutes, until the dish is heated through, and the cheese is brown and bubbling.
    We served these with some spanish rice and a green salad.  This is a healthy and delicious meal that is always a crowd pleaser.  Enjoy!

    Friday, October 16, 2009

    Keeping Calm

    It is one of those times.  Chaos all around.  Life is too busy.  Work, home, family, friends: I have lists and lists of lists piling up around me, all waiting to be tended to.  The fact is, the inbox will never be empty, and life will never be much more calm than it is now. Truthfully, I feel lucky to have such a richly packed full life, and probably wouldn't have it any other way.  The challenge is, how to thrive off of the busyness and let it nourish you instead of wearing you down?  There are so many ways to keep the stress in check, but it is just as easy to let it swallow you whole.  Lately, I've been caught up in the moment, and forgetting some of my favorite ways to keep calm.  I could use a bit more:

    1) Yoga Now is a time when I'd love to be a regular at a nice, sweaty Bikram class, or a rigorous Ashtanga class with a good, long savasana.  However, 90-minute consecutive blocks of free time aren't really part of my life right now, at least not during hours where yoga studios are open.  The fact is, you don't need to attend a full, formal class to reap the benefits of a bit of yoga practice.  Stretching and breathing for 15 minutes in the living room can do almost as good a job of bringing things back down to earth.  A series of Sun Salutations, a bit of breathing, and your perspective is refreshed, and those clenched, stressed muscles are a bit warmer and looser.  I need to remember this.

    2) Walking Again, it is so easy to think that if there is no time for an hour-long power walk, than why bother.  I need to be better about just spinning the block with Baby J, and not waiting for the opportunity to get all the way over to the trail system for us to get out and move.  At the office, it is so easy to get caught up in a work day, and never leave my desk chair between 8:30 and 5.  My girlfriends at work are really good about taking a lunchtime walk, and I just need to be better about putting whatever it is that is making me feel too busy to go with them aside, and make a point of joining them to stretch my legs.  A little movement and fresh air can go a long way.

    3) Lists Staying hyper-organized at times like this can make the difference between succeeding at the juggling act, or letting everything come crashing to the floor.  I have recently implemented a new system for keeping organized at work which involves a date book with a color-coded tab system, and separate lists for each event or project I am working on.  Anyone who sees it has a good giggle, but so far it is making a difference in the keeping of my sanity.  For all things personal life, I keep daily, weekly, and monthly lists going in my planner, and on a series of post-its and a nifty magnetic organizer from the Real Simple collection at Target (love).  The thing of it is to allow these lists to make me feel more and not less sane.  Keeping them current, getting satisfaction out of crossing things off, and knowing when to laugh at the sheer number of them are all helpful.  There is a fine line between brilliant and batty in all of this Type A-ness, and I need to tread it lightly and with humor.

    4) Dinner  Yes, my friends, the evening meal.  How better to cap off a busy day and transition into an evening that will allow you to calm down and get a good night's sleep, than to sit at the table like a human being and nourish yourself?  When life gets hectic, it is tempting to want to inhale pizza in front of the tube, and then move onto the next thing on your list.  But eventually this type of behavior will only snowball the stress of your situation until you find yourself buried in an avalanche.  Instead, why not exhale, prepare some simple but nutritious grub, and sit down and look your honey/roomie/dog in the eyes, and talk out the day?  Last night, I came home feeling like a human tornado.  As I walked in the door, I wasn't sure I'd be able to take it down a notch at all.  But, as I rounded the corner into the kitchen, I saw the husband had the table set, something yummy on the grill, and a large glass of wine with my name it (thanks, B!).  Immediately, I smiled, which caused me to breathe, which allowed me to take in the beauty of the situation, hug my husband and son, pet my dog, and start to feel human again.  We put the baby on the table in his bouncy chair, and enjoyed eachother's company and a good meal.  Afterwards, I felt calm and cool, and I slept like a log.  Lesson learned.  There is ALWAYS time for dinner, and you've got to eat, so make meals sacred and replenishing.

    5) Perspective No matter the situation, there is nothing worth getting so stressed over that you become blind to your love ones and all of your blessings.  The little man has been amazing at helping me keep life in perspective in this way.  No matter how rushed things get, when I sit down to feed him, time stops.  He looks in my eyes and taps his hands on mine, and nothing else really matters.  All the to do lists and issues are dwarfed by the overwhelming love that exists in that moment.  Even in the middle of the night, the little guy has a way of making anything else that is going on seem trivial, and this is perhaps the greatest gift he has given me.  Suddenly, your priorities are perfectly in place, if you just listen to your heart.  The trick is to hold on to this sense of perspective even when you are zooming down the highway, or you picked the wrong line at the grocery store, or are on hold again waiting for information on pediatric flu shots.  None of it really matters.  And with that, you can exhale and feel thankful, keep calm, and carry on.

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    Weeknight Cooking

    Weekdays are so busy right now that it is hard to do any real cooking after work.  These are the days when all of our weekend cooking projects pay off.  Around 6 o'clock Tuesday evening we were staring at eachother and realizing neither of us had the heart or energy to really start cooking.  However, we had lots of yummy leftover homemade mac n' cheese, and plenty of interesting farmers market veggies on hand.  We decided to have mac n' cheese with salad and green beans.  I threw together a simple salad of tomatoes, local farm-made feta, killer croutons, and mesclun greens while the husband snipped green beans and Baby J bounced in his bouncer.  Then I made my signature hot-sweet green beans, which are a fave of the hub:

    2 big handfuls green beans, ends snipped
    2 garlic cloves, crushed
    2 roasted red peppers, chopped
    Generous squirts of honey and Sriricha to taste
    Salt and Pepper
    Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    Cover the bottom of a frying pan with water and salt it generously.   Bring the water to a boil, throw in the green beans and cover to blanch -- this only takes a few minutes -- you want the beans to maintain their crunch.  Dump the beans into a colander, return the pan to the heat, and cover the bottom with EVOO.  Give the oil a minute to heat, and crush the garlic into it, letting it fry for about a minute before tossing in the beans.  Add the roasted red peppers and continue tossing, then add the Sriricha and honey, salt and pepper to taste.  Continue to saute until the beans reach your desired doneness -- we tend to like ours crispy, so we kill the heat almost immediately and serve -- but these would also be delicious a tad more wilted and soft, if that is your bag.

    A couple notes about ingredients:

    1) Roasted Red Peppers are one of my favorite go-to ingredients.  We always have a jar of RRPs on hand in the fridge.  They are packed with flavor and nutrients, and are very low in calories.  They also had something unexpected to simple dishes like salads and sandwiches.  RRPs totally transform this bean dish from average to interesting. I throw them in almost any vegetable-oriented dish I make.  And they are pretty to boot.

    2) If you haven't tried Sriricha, you should.  This amazing Thai, all-purpose hot sauce has a subtly garlicky heat and works wonders in all kinds of dishes from deviled eggs to stir fry.  Sriricha has a cult-following, and when you try it, you'll see why.  If you like heat, just try it almost anywhere you'd use ketchup, and I promise you'll be pleasantly surprised.

    3) Finally, remember how I mentioned we made the mac a bit bland since one tray of it was bound for the mouth of a toddler?  Well, I like to add salt to just about everything, and special salts make my salting all the more wonderful.  How best to transform macaroni from mundane to magical?  Truffle salt, my friends, truffle salt.  Need I say more?  The earthy truffles blend with the cheese and bechamel to make you think you are dining at a fine French restaurant, and not at the exhausted end of your Tuesday.  These are leftovers I can live with.

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    Did I say Fall? I meant Winter.

    Right.  So, I woke up this morning to this:

    Same idyllic fall apple tree as on Sunday, except covered in snow!  There are two ways to look at this:
    1) Baby J's first snowfall!  Awwww.
    2) Snow in October?  Are you flipping kidding me?  Out came the winter boots + the drive into work this morning was a bit of a nail biter, what with the freezing rain and sleet on the roads.  Already?  In October?

    After the shock wore off, I immediately began pondering my bundling strategy for Baby J.  A Vermont winter is going to call for some serious layering action for the little guy, and being the Patagonia junkie that I am, I couldn't help but immediately think of their beyond adorable baby collection.  I recently stopped into our local kid-focused outdoor retailer to assess my options.  Imagine my luck to have a Vermonter mama of no fewer than 4 boys overhear me peppering the saleswoman with questions, and chime in with her seasoned advice which, coincidentally, was heavily laden with Patagonia recommendations.  Well, twist my arm lady.
    So, here we have the Baby Reversible Puffball Bunting and the Baby Capilene 3-Set:

    Edibly cute + admirably functional.  Love how the hands fold over into mitts on the Puffball, to offer warmth and keep mittens from going astray.  Love anything reversible.  Love the whole thing. And for the time between now and when it gets truly frigid (because I have faith and hope that fall will indeed make a comeback), we have these adorable fleece buntings, each with a different level of Cookie Monster-ness, but both with equal ingenuity.  How brilliant is it that the legs zip into one sleeping-bag-esque piece for naps and stroller jaunts, but then also zip into legs for car rides and crawling adventures? Genius!

    And because we are very lucky people, no sooner did I start to ruminate upon this bundling business, than a Patagonia package showed up on our doorstep this evening, courtesy of Baby J's fabulous auntie, containing the following:

    In the words of RZ, I DIE.  Baby J is downright delicious in this lime green loveliness. Thank you!!!

    I know what you are saying.  "Mama J, you promised us recession-friendly information!  What is with this Patagucci collage?  Have you lost your mind?"  To you I say these three things:
    1) Patagonia is an investment.  I fully plan to use this gear on current and future babies, and then pass it on to cousins; their stuff is that durable.  They also have a lifetime warantee on all of their products, in which case, say one day when Baby J is 20, and I want to pass this on to a wee cousin of his, and I dig out the Puffball bunting to find the zipper is broken, I can march right into the nearest Patagonia retailer and have a new one in my hands in minutes, no questions asked.
    2) Patagonia is an inspirational company.  They have a green vision and the most amazing corporate politics.  They are just the kind of company I am proud to support.  From their Footprint Chronicles, to their always amazing and thought-provoking Environmental Essays, they completely walk their talk.  I love it.  And for the ultimate elevating tale of personal triumph over adversity, check out the story of my buddy Jeff, who is one of their Patagonia surfing ambassadors. Very cool.
    3)  The cuteness.  Who can resist it?

    Finally, on a separate topic, the change of seasons means local gardeners are racing to harvest the last of their goodies.  This beauty came to us from the garden of one of the husband's co-workers (thank you!) awesome is this?

    Cabbage is from garden, and pictured with not-small bunch of bananas for scale.
    Aside from 20 gallons of slaw, what to make from this bad boy?  We are accepting suggestions/dares.
    Bring it.