Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving part 2: The Rest

Well I had planned to write more about Thanksgiving much sooner. I had also planned to take pictures of our lovely dinner, and of the people giving thanks. I guess I was too thankful for all the feasting to remember. Here is what our dinner started out with, Nana's china.



A lovely centerpiece made out of leftovers from my mom's garden.



That was as long as I lasted before I forgot all about photographing and got busy cooking and eating.

Another highlight of our week off for Thanksgiving was a trip to Sedona with Fran and baby Tristan.





We hiked out the Cathedral rock trail to a place where I used to Mountain bike to called Buddha Beach. It's not really a beach, but a pretty place to hang out next to the creek, and there were lots of yellow leaves and of course, beautiful red rocks.





Chris came with us, but of course he rode his bike and had a great time.



We met up with the whole Suby family (my friend Juliana's family) at Buddha Beach, and then went to visit them at their rental house nearby. We doubled up on our Thanksgiving leftovers by eating with them in the afternoon. Mmm.

Last, we decorated my mom's little agave stalk Christmas tree with ornaments and lights (a tradition that we borrowed from the Suby family).





We're back in Tucson now enjoying a warm, sunny day, and it sure doesn't feel like it's almost Christmas.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving part 1: Brioche

Brioche is an important Thanksgiving tradition in my family. I can remember my Granddad making it when I was little, or my dad, or Gram and even my mom. It's sort of a sweet bread in a pretty shape that you can tear the arms off of. It has orange zest in it, and the top is brushed with egg white to make it shiny. It smells so good while it's baking.

We made the pumpkin pie and brioche yesterday, a good time saving idea for today, but kind of torturous to fill the house with wonderful smells and not be able to touch the freshly baked pies and breads.

I'm not going to post the whole recipe here because it's awefully long. If anyone would like to try this, please let me know and I'll make copies of the recipe. This is more of a nostalgic post about making brioche, the parts that I always liked to participate in.

Once the dough has risen, you put it on a round sheet, and make it into a flattened circle. With scissors, cut slits up the sides into a sort of sun shape, and then twist each arm up.







You can put some extra little pieces on the middle, which can be pulled off and eaten first :)



My mom's copy of the recipe has seen many years of use.





The holes in the corner are from one year when I was "helping" my mom, using a baking device called a hole puncher...



In the oven it starts to fill the house with the sweet, bready smell.



And finally it comes out, ready for thanksgiving dinner.



Here's what the old photo on the recipe says it's supposed to look like, we got pretty close I think.



Happy Thanksgiving!!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tamales

Friday evening we were lucky enough to be invited to Steve and Tasha's for Steve's birthday, and to make Tamales. I'd never made them before, and was really excited to learn. Luckily we did learn from the neighbor, Jose. Tasha tells the whole story in a very entertaining way, including some good photos, on her blog agavemaria.blogspot.com. I'm not going to tell the story, just put a few of the photos that I took to add to her telling.

Tons of CSA chiles that have been hoarded for this:



Steve and Chris in the kitchen:



All the tamales in the pot, almost there...:



And finally, the finished product, cheesy and delicious:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Colin turns 25

We didn't do a big party or anything for Colin's birthday yesterday, but he and Maya and I went out for pizza and wings, mmm. You know, a good healthy dinner. Then we came back and ate birthday cake. I made a carrot cake, Colin's favorite, with cream cheese frosting.



So, here is my recipe for "the best carrot cake ever, guaranteed."

Go to Albertson's with every intention of buying a bag of carrots. In a moment of laziness, veer toward the baking aisle, just to look, and end up in front of the cake mixes. As you're standing there looking at all the moist, moister, and moistest cakes pictured on the fronts of all the boxes, notice a sign that says, "the best carrot cake ever, guaranteed"
Well, what would you do? They guarantee that it's the best carrot cake ever, how could I even hope to compete? So I made the cake from the box. I picked out the raisins though.

I wouldn't actually say it was the best carrot cake ever, definitely not. But it was good, and what made it exciting was the homemade cream cheese frosting from the joy of cooking.



Monday, November 17, 2008

Sunsets and Eggrolls

The sunsets and the eggrolls have very little to do with each other, except that I wanted to post all three of these photos today. The sunset is from last weekend, and I should have posted them sooner, but I thought this Monday morning would be good for a sunset anyway.





The eggrolls I also made last week. I love these. I think the first time I made them this way might have been in Gunnison, and it's been a long time since I thought about them, but they were good. I think I'll have to make them more often.



For the filling I use:
a Portabello mushroom cap
purple cabbage
carrots
bean sprouts
garlic
ginger

I saute all these together, and then wrap them in egg roll wrappers. If you've never made eggrolls before, there are a couple of important things to know:
1) You put the filling in diagonally, pull the first two corners together, and then carefully pull the third corner over and roll it, making sure there is no filling coming out (it will make the oil splatter)
2) Use a little bit of water on your finger to wet the last corner, which will make it stick.
3) Place a damp paper towel over the open package of wrappers; if you don't do this, they dry out and stick together, which makes the process a lot more difficult

Fry them in oil hot enough that it bubbles furiously as soon as you put them in, and enjoy. The yummy fillings make this seem like a relatively healthy dinner despite the frying. I like to dip them in soy sauce or spicy mustard, and sometimes a hot sauce.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New Member of the Household

I know what you probably think I'm going to write about, but you're wrong. Sorry.

This is about Chris and his shiny new bicycle, which he loves. I wish I could have captured just how much his eyes lit up when the box arrived on the Fedex truck.



He is hugging the box in this picture.

Actually, he ran after a Fedex truck earlier in the day that turned out to be the wrong one. He'll have to tell you more about that.

The reason I call this (loosely) a new member of the household is because, as many of you already know, bikes have their own room in our house, and on any given day, few people would be surprised to see several bikes also taking over another room in the house. So here it is.







Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Road Trip to Nowhere

On Sunday Steve, Tasha, Chris and I set out for the Gila Box. It was a scouting mission to see if the Gila Box would be a good place for Chris to take 10 middle school students on a camping/hiking trip. We drove out past the Dragoons on I-10, saying, "this would be a nice place to stop sometime.." and kept on driving for maybe another 2 hours or so. After about 3 hours of driving we reached the road we thought would go across the Gila river and to the campground (that's what the map showed). Wrong. We turned around and headed back toward the road at the other end. Another half hour later, and a ding on the bottom of our car from a rock that didn't look big enough to hit anything, we pulled into what I thought was one of the ugliest campgrounds I've been to in a while. True, I was biased by wanting so badly to see something other than brown desert, but still.

We thought, well at least we saved Chris the trip with a group of students...

The picknik area down the hill was actually really pretty. Beside the Gila river there were trees changing colors, and it was nice to look at the river. The sound of shooting (probably at the 'No Shooting' sign, thought Chris and Steve), and someone's car stereo blasting music just downriver made it seem a little less than pristine. Some of the photos turned out cool though, so I thought I'd share them.





We didn't last long at the picknik area before getting back in the car. On the way home we stopped at "The Thing" - we didn't see the Thing though, because it cost a dollar, and we decided to spend our money on ice cream cones instead.

Finally, driving back through the Dragoons with late afternoon sunlight, we exited on Dragoon road, expecting to be able to pull over and hike out into the cool rock formations. No Trespassing. There was a little spot though, and we walked up to the top of a little hill to watch the sunset. The day certainly wasn't all bad. It was like a roadtrip where you get to sleep in your own bed at night, Tasha suggested. I guess that's a good way to describe it.

I liked this photo Tasha took of Chris and I sitting on our rock in the Dragoons.



Right after this photo was taken was when we decided to start telling people that we are having a baby, due in May. We're very excited, but kept the secret for quite a while. Now we hope everyone will be celebrating with us and sending us lots of good energy.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A moment in the yard

Over the weekend Chris finally had a few moments to himself to take care of the basil plants that Steve gave us.



We laughed when we picked up our CSA share last week, and it included, what else? A basil plant! We should definitely have a pesto party sometime soon. We've had really great basil the past two years, thanks to Steve's gift for sprouting it, and his lack of space to grow an entire farm of it (at least right now). We feel pretty lucky, especially since the few times we've tried to sprout our own plants, they never get bigger than about two inches tall. Who knows why? (not us, but I guess probably Steve...)





Our yard has been really brown lately, sort of like the rest of Tucson this time of year. At least we have these really cool starfish looking flowers blooming right now.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hope in Unexpected Places



Today is a hopeful and exciting day. My mom sent me this photo that she took yesterday, which is pretty inspiring.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Letters

When my mom arrived this weekend, she came with a car full of items she had taken from my grandparents house. My grandfather, now alone, decided to move into a retirement home recently, and my mom and her brothers took on the responsibility of sorting through what Nana and Grandpa had collected in their sixty years of marriage. Out of everything, there were only so many treasures we could afford to add to our quickly increasing collected of "stuff." I had already been given many of the things I most treasured of Nana's, she being one of those elderly people who seems to look forward to moving on, and wanting to see that her treasured things go to people who appreciate them before it becomes a great task of sorting through them all at once. Nevertheless, there were several things I was still attached to. One of them being a pair of bookends in the shape of the Buddha. Another a set of intricately carved nesting tables that I had always loved, and remind me of Nana's parlor. Do people still have parlors? I don't think anyone that I know.

Another interesting item that my mom brought with her was a large stack of letters that my grandparents had written to each other before they were married, during World War II.





The letters themselves we mostly updates on the doings of the day, written faithfully every other day. What was fun too notice was the frequency of the writing, and the stamps and envelopes.







It seems like people hardly ever write letters anymore. Nana used to send letters often, to a long list of people. She had a little writing desk, and I imagine that throughout most of her life she would spend a part of the day sitting there and writing letters to her many correspondents. I wrote to her and recieved letters from her often until she passed away recently, and I miss hearing about what she did during the day. I received a letter from her a little less than a week after her death. I was amazed and inspired to imagine her, knowing that she was not feeling well for quite a while, still sitting down to write those letters. It made me cry to see that letter, and to know it would be the last one. Her handwriting, on these letters postmarked 1942, we almost identical to the handwriting in her recent letters, and my mom and I chuckled to find that the content seemed almost the same also, even though it was about the life of a sorority girl at William and Mary instead of an 85 year-old woman.

I think I'll try to write more letters (I think I told Jed and Tracey I would write to them already, since Jed made a similar observation about the shortage of paper letters these days). I'll have to work on it, especially sending letters to Grandpa.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Jack-o-Lanterns

Our house has never had a single trick-or-treater, as long as we've been here. I guess it makes sense, since the houses in our neighborhood have fences and dogs, and that houses are spaced far apart, but it's still a little bit sad that the halloween fun doesn't seem to reach us.



My mom and Ron were here visiting for the weekend, and we decided to make the most of our lack of trick-or-treaters (while staying home) by carving our pumkins. After my mom and Chris cut open the tops and took out the slimy, squishy guts, we took turns carving eyes, mouths and noses.



We took them out into the yard and lit candles to see their spooky faces in all their orange glory. Here are the faces we came up with.





I haven't had time to blog as much as I would like lately, but I'll try to start getting here more often. I have a few other things to share this week, so hopefully I will be posting more often than I have been. I hope everyone had a happy halloween!