Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Happy Birthday to Gram

Today is my grandmother's birthday (my dad's mother, JoAnne). This photo (and a close-up of it) is an old black and white of her before going to a fancy party. I love the photo because she seems so glamorous to me. I wish I looked more like her.

This photo is of my Gram a few years ago in Las Cruces. I took it while I was staying with her for the summer.

It was a hard time for a lot of reasons, mainly that a large part of the reason I was there was to help her move my grandfather into a home for people with Alzheimer's. I missed his birthday just a few days ago, and will have to write a whole post about him sometime soon. He was a really neat person.

What I want to say though, is that although it was a difficult summer, and there were a lot of sad things to go through, Gram and I had a wonderful time together. We spent all day every day together, going to do various errands around town, visiting Granddad, and even trips to El Paso. One of my favorite memories of spending time with her was on a trip to El Paso to the air force base. We thought it would be a good idea to take a different route home, but ended up somewhere out in the middle of nowhere. We were on roads that kept getting smaller and smaller, and each one ended in a T. Well, we just chose one direction or the other, having very little idea where we were going. After a little while we started to laugh at ourselves for this random route, and kept on laughing until we had tears in our eyes. We thought that was the most fun thing we'd done in a while. I guess it didn't take much for us to have a good time together.

Of course we're still very close, but Gram now lives in Tyler, Texas with her husband Bill. She and Bill were married a little over a year ago. His wife also had Alzheimer's, and they met in the home where my grandfather lived. A very sweet story. She married him wearing a pair of pink cowboy boots.

Happy Birthday Gram!!
I love you!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Borscht, Bagels, and Baba Ganoush

I was so busy with all my cooking and baking projects that I sort of got behind on taking pictures of them, for which I'm very disappointed in myself. Chris and I walked to the Epic Cafe this morning. We figure that's about a mile and a half from our house. We must really like our coffee. And yes, our car works, we did it just for fun. Even thought it is cooling down finally here in Tucson, it's still in the nineties during the day.

I don't know if everyone in Tucson feels this way, maybe it comes from growing up in a cooler climate, but around this time of year I start really wishing I could wear a nice warm sweater, jeans, and maybe something other than sandals. Late September, that doesn't seem like too much to ask does it? Not here.

We bought a colorful assortment of veggies at Whole Foods today. The older woman behind us in line congratulated us on having chosen such a colorful assortment of things. Beets, a pumpkin, lemons, parsely, jalapenos, and lots of other healthy choices. It made our efforts feel sort of validated.

When we got home we went right to the kitchen. Chris started us out by making salsa, which turned out really good. It was spicier than we expected, considering we'd only used two jalapenos.

After that I started a pot of beets boiling with some lemon juice, onion, and sugar for to make Cold Borscht (I got the recipe from the Tucson CSA website). I'd been wanting to eat beets, and cold borscht sounded good, especially with the dollop of sour cream...

We ate artichokes, borscht, and a salad with avocados and spring greens that Colin brought over. Mmm, I wish I would have taken a picture of this feast!

Oh, I forgot to mention that while the borscht was boiling, we also made some more bagels. This recipe was slightly different, but it was still easy. After dinner, not quite finished, Chris peeled the green chiles and eggplant that he'd roasted earlier. He saved the green chiles, and made some delicious baba ganoush with the eggplant.

Next time we spend a whole day making things like this, I promise to take more pictures.
Here are links to the recipes we used:

Borscht -- http://www.tucsoncsa.org/2007/07/02/cold-borscht/

Bagels -- http://www.cdkitchen.com/recipes/recs/270/Bagels13780.shtml

Baba Ganoush -- http://www.recipezaar.com/67570

I just noticed as I was linking to these recipes that everything we made started with a 'B' (oh, except the salsa). Maybe we'll start doing alliterative cooking days...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Happy 50th Dad

Today my Dad turns 50.

This is a photo of my dad and me on the day that I was born.

Ever since then, I think I've been his biggest fan. I've always loved listening to him play the guitar and sing, and telling jokes with him. Of all the people I know, I think my dad's sense of humor is my favorite, and maybe the most like mine. Growing up I always spent a lot of time at my dad's house and really enjoyed hanging out with him. For the last five years he's lived in Vermont, which is really far away. Sometimes I miss him so much it makes me cry.

One of the things I like about my dad is that he's unpredictable, and does things you wouldn't expect, just for fun.

I think this photo is from my fifteenth or sixteenth birthday party. We used to have these wild dress-up parties at my mom's house. That year, as you can probably see, my dad came dressed as a Harri Krishna. He didn't just sort of dress up, he even had the little patch of hair left in the back. At the time I couldn't believe he did it (although as you can tell from the photo I thought it was pretty funny), but now I love this photo, and the memory. The serious look on his face is for the character. I think if you look closely you can see he's trying not to crack a smile.

A couple of weeks ago, as I was getting ready for my wedding ceremony, my dad showed up wearing a cowboy hat with his wedding clothes. "Dad! You can't wear that!" I said, exasperated. I'm sure he wore it for just that response, right dad? He had brought with him a little bundle of sage, and he smudged me (lit the sage and wafted the smoke around me) with it before we went inside. I'd been feeling a little bit like the wedding wasn't being true to my roots, and that it would be missing a few important things like that. That really helped and meant a lot. Thank you Dad.

I wish I was in Vermont to plan a big surprise party this year. We used to have surprise parties every year. I think after a while when it got close to this time of year, my dad would start to say things like, "So when's the surprise party?" I think maybe he caught on.

One year, determined to surprise him, and knowing if we took him out anywhere he'd guess right away, we invited all his friends over for a Mexican food (his all-time favorite) potluck at his house. What you have to know first, is that people used to stop by my dad's house to hang out ALL THE TIME. I guess he was pretty popular. Anyway, when his friend Kirk showed up that night, carrying some enchiladas or something, my dad, unknowing (and not noticing the dish) said, "Hey, did you know it's my birthday?"
"Uh, yeah. I think I heard that." Said Kirk.
I don't think he realized that this was the surprise party until about five people had shown up with food and/or beer for the party. That was a good one.

This year I'm not there to plan a party. Maybe next year. But at least I wanted to say:

Happy Birthday Dad!
I love you!!

Monday, September 22, 2008

New Love: Homemade Bagels

The other day Amy posted about how she would like to learn how to make bread. I've been thinking the same thing, but it's one of those things that I have a hard time getting motivated to do. Even though Chris and I, being the newly initiated married couple that we are, have a new Kitchen Aid mixer that's just aching to be used for just such a project.

Luckily for me, my friends Annetta and Louisa invited me this evening for an evening of making bagels. I had no idea that bagels were so easy to make. Apparently this wasn't a complete secret, since when I told Colin I was going he said, "oh yeah, bagels are easy to make." Oh, well nobody told me...

Annetta had made her own bagels before, and had been promising to enlighten Louisa and I for what feels like months now, and tonight we finally did it. I don't have the recipe to post here, but Annetta promised to email it to me tomorrow afternoon, so I'll post it then for anyone who would like to try this. It's easy, but you have to wait twenty minutes in between each step, so it's not exactly fast.

First we made the dough, which is a really simple bread dough. I think pretty much just instant yeast, flour, oil and water. Once the dough has been kneaded for a while, you break it into equal sized little balls (about the size of a tennis ball, or a little bit smaller). These have to rise. Yep, twenty minutes.

Once you've waited the twenty minutes, already a little impatient if you're like me, you roll these into what the recipe calls "snakes" and attach the ends with a little water by wrapping one end sort of around the other.

You guessed it, twenty minutes... wait. Oh... I meant rise. Next, into a pot of boiling water for maybe 30 seconds.

From the pot, into a greased baking dish, and straight into the hot oven for the last step. How long to bake? Well, I don't actually remember, but if were going to venture a guess, I'd say, oh, twenty minutes.

The final product was, in my opinion (being a person who has sampled many a bagel) quite lovely.

We made our own veggie cream cheese, inspired by one of my favorite items at the Epic Cafe, but with our own twist. We added green onions, roasted red bells peppers, and cucumbers. We put this delicious cream cheese on the warm bagels, and then layered them with slices of avocado for a delightful dinner.

Oh, did I mention that we did this entire project while speaking Spanish? It was a challenge, since we hadn't had a "Spanish night" in a few months, but the bagels turned out okay, so I guess we must have been doing alright...

I also want to say, since my photography learning process is a big part of this blog, that I have a special technique of using the built in flash on my camera that I'm excited about. All the photos above were taken in rather low-light with my special technique. I think it turns out pretty nice.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Green Chile Quicherole

We've been getting a lot of green chiles from our CSA farm share. They're good, but the other evening we were feeling a little reluctant to do the same old chiles rellenos as last week.

But what else do you do with roasted green chiles? (Lots of things, I'm sure, but we couldn't think of them)
This is what we came up with.

I called it "Green Chile Quicherole" or something like that. It was sort of like a super simple green chile quiche in a casserole dish with a light crust that was actually made out of flour tortillas.

Here's what I did:

10 Roasted Green Chiles
4 Lg flour tortillas
5 eggs, beaten
2 C co-jack cheese
3 small leftover potatoes, cubed

Using a small casserole dish with a little oil in the bottom, lay two Lg tortillas in so that they overlap and hang over the sides of the dish. Put 1/2 o f the potatoes, 1/2 of the green chiles (lay them across whole) in evenly over the tortillas. Pour 1/2 of the egg mixture over the top and sprinkle about 1/3 of the cheese.
Next, put the other two tortillas in the same way, covering the first layer. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients, and then put the last 1/3 of the cheese over the top.
Bake at about 400 for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese looks brown and bubbly.

The tortillas sticking out get browned and actually work kind of like a crust. We thought this was really good, so I thought I'd share it.

Another creative cooking idea, from my friend Tasha who came over the other night, is grilling dates.

They were good, but a little sweet. We think they might be better with meat. Tasha said she got the idea from this restaurant we ate at in Tarifa, Spain that had really great, mostly grilled food, including chicken kabobs with dates on them. This isn't a great photo of the restaurant, but it shows it a little bit, and it's all I have.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Chubby Hubby

Chris and I are enjoying marriage, especially little things. People keep asking us if it feels different. Not that different, but I guess it's starting to sink in a little bit, and there's some slight difference that feels nice. Yesterday evening we drove to Alberson's for a few late-night groceries.

It's been a while since we bought ice cream, and Chris decided that he wanted to go look for the "Chubby hubby," since he's a hubby now (those who know him, however, probably wouldn't agree with the chubby part).

We couldn't resist the 2 for $6.oo sale on Ben & Jerry's. We bought pumpkin cheesecake (my choice) and of course, the chubby hubby, which neither of us had even tried before. It's good. It has peanut-butter filled, chocolate covered pretzels. Maybe the pretzels are the chubby hubbys...? I don't know where the name came from, but it was funny.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

More photos uploaded

I know this is kind of a cop-out post, but I uploaded the second half of the wedding photos. There are some great dancing ones, and some really nice sunset portraits of Chris and I. Just click on the same slide show below, and you can scroll quickly through if you don't want to see the others again.

Monday, September 15, 2008

THE Wedding Photo Slideshow

I know you've been anxiously waiting (at least some of you) to see the wedding photos. They take forever to upload, but I finally had time to do at least half of them. I'll try to add some more tomorrow or Wednesday, but for now they go all the way through the ceremony.

The photographer did a great job at capturing us and the ceremony, not so great at getting all the guests and the rest of the wedding. I hope some of you can give us some photos of the rest of the people who were there. I hope you enjoy the first part of the slideshow!

If you click on the little box with four arrows on the lower right hand corner of the show, it should show it as a full screen.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Beaver Creek Portraits

On our way home from Flagstaff we stopped at the little picnic area along Wet Beaver Creek. I loved introducing Adam, Amy and June to the world of hidden treasures like this place that can be found just off the highway (in what looks like cactus and brush as far as the eye can see) if you know where to look.

We sat beside the creek in the shade of large Sycamore and Cottonwood trees. Put our toes in the surprisingly cold water, and ate chips and salsa, which you can see on June's face in some of these photos.

I've been thinking about trying to start my own portrait business for a while, and have been inching in that direction. Amy also wants to join in with the project and she has a great eye for taking photos, as well as maybe a little more business sense than me...? So I'm hopeful. I'm also practicing with Lightroom, and discovered a new way to export photos. I really like it and I'd be interested in opinions about it.

I got some precious mother-daughter photos of Amy and June.

I love this one of little daughter feet with mommy feet splashing in the creek.

Here is a similar one of June splashing with her Dad.

I love being around Adam and Amy for a lot of reasons, but one of the big ones is how much they seem to like being around each other.

We tried to do some family portraits. June would only sit still for a moment, but there were a couple of nice family photos.

Amy got a couple of nice shots of Chris and I too.

This was a great place to sit, and a great place to take pictures. I haven't quite mastered resizing the photos for the blog without losing a little of the image quality. I'm working on it though and I can only get better. If any of you readers are interested in doing a photo shoot to bolster my portfolio let me know...

p.s. Amy and Adam wearing matching outfits was just a coincidence.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Glo's Garden

We're in Flagstaff this weekend staying with my mom and Ron. We planned to camp, but Junie had a fever so we had a mellow day. Mom showed June all of her gardens (veggies, flowers, sprouts, lettuces, etc.) and they had a good time.

June picked tomatoes and strawberries. She looked at the flowers, and she reminded all of us how cool the world looks through the eyes of a toddler.

These garden strawberries were some of the best strawberries ever.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

CSA and the new Grill

Many of you might have already heard that Chris' family surprised us with a super-sized grill for our wedding gift. We weren't sure if we'd ever be able to use such a large grill to it's capacity, but we were wrong. On monday our friend Louisa came over and we grilled squash, sweet corn, chilies, onions, and even a few more unusual items like Devil's Claw from our yard, and our CSA watermelon.

We had never tried grilled watermelon before, and were skeptical. Someone (I can't remember who) recently told me that grilled watermelon was something worth trying. I love grilled pinapple, and we were at a loss as to how we would eat an entire watermelon so...

We also used more of the frozen prickly pear to make an iced tea. Prickly pear, berry zinger iced tea. It was tasty, and, like everything made with a little prickly pear, beautiful (at least in my purple-loving opinion).

I don't know about you, but for me it's hard to eat a meal of primarily vegetable items without at least a little something cheesy. We had a little kalamata olive bread left over from breakfast in Bisbee, some garden tomatoes, mushrooms, and some homemade pesto. We used the upper shelf of the grill to melt the cheese and toast the bread for some delicious bruschetta.

As you can see, this large grill is getting used. We're planning to make the most of the grill and the CSA veggies for the rest of the summer and the fall. The weather here would be absolutely ideal for outdoor living right now if not for the swarms of mosquitos. You woulnd'd thing Tucson would have such a mosquito problem but, man, they are around until December. My ankles are covered right now, and writing this is just barely keeping me from scratching.

Seriouly, the next time you have a watermelon lying around, try grilling slices of it. You won't be dissapointed.