Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Sneak Peek

Costumes!!! My toddler is Tinkerbell:

I'm a flower garden:

And my hubby . . . well, he's "On Vacation." See what you think:

(His costume will be slightly embellished in real life, with sunglasses, a hat, and a camera.)

Happy Haunting!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dollars and Sense?

What would you think if you woke up on a Saturday morning and found a single dollar bill sitting on your kitchen counter? It would be easy to make sense of, right? You'd assume that your spouse, roomie, or whoever happens to live with you just left a dollar on the counter. No biggie. But what would you think if you found $40 sitting on the counter with no explanation? That's a little more peculiar, but still reasonable. $40 and several credit cards? That's getting harder to make sense of.

Now imagine that when you walk into the kitchen on a Saturday morning, still groggy from a late night the night before, you see a strange wallet sitting on the kitchen counter. You've never seen the wallet before, AND it's loaded. There are bills and credit cards clearly peeking out. Your next thought is that your husband went to what sounded like a pretty rowdy party the night before. Wait a minute, did he come home with somebody else's wallet?

So when this happened to me last weekend my curiosity was immediately peeked. I gestured towards the wallet and asked my husband, "What's that?" He was even groggier than me at the time.

Hubby: What's what?
Me: What's that? The wallet?
Hubby: I don't see anything.
Me, puzzled why he seems to be playing dumb: Did you seriously come home from the party with somebody else's wallet? [I notice that the wallet is pretty nondescript, even rather gender-neutral. For lack of a better explanation, and in my diminished, coffee-less state, I start to get suspicious that he's trying to hide something.] Whose IS that?

[Long, LONG silence.]

Hubby: Ohhhhhh. You mean the wallet?
Me: Yes.
Hubby, confused: That's mine.
Me, unsure what he's talking about since I know this looks nothing like his wallet: Huh?
Hubby: Yeah. I bought it last week.
Me: What? But it looks so worn.
Hubby: Yeah, it's stylish.
Me: Oh, ok. Got it. It's yours and it's stylish.

We both laughed, relieved. And so the day begins . . .

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


We eat a lot of quesadillas at our house. They're quick, easy, and can be customized to fit everyone's taste. In fact, simple cheese quesadillas have become my signature contribution at weeknight school events when I have very little time to prep. The kids eat them plain, and I add a bowl of salsa alongside for the adults to spice theirs up. I can purchase 3 ingredients (tortillas, cheese, salsa), make an entire lasagna pan of them in about 30 minutes, and keep them warm in the oven until I cart them off to whatever kid-event they're headed to. It works out great for everyone!

Recently I was doing this exact thing when I decided to make a few extra "adult" quesadillas using whatever I happened to have in the fridge. This ended up being a great discovery, on par with macaroni and cheese or strawberry shortcake. I mean it - these are scrumptious! Next time you're in the food doldrums and need a quick solution, definitely try these out. Just remember to make extra!

Simple Spinach Quesadillas
  • 4 taco-sized tortillas (flour, wheat, or corn)
  • About 1 1/3 cups of shredded Mexican cheese (jack or cheddar will also do fine)
  • About 2 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 3 green onions, white and light green parts, cut lengthwise into fourths, then very finely sliced
First prep the cheese and veggies. Warm a skillet or grill pan on medium. To assemble the quesadillas, put about 1/2 a tablespoon of green onions on one half of each tortilla. Then spread about 1/3 cup of cheese over that. Finally, spread 1/2 cup of spinach on top. The tortillas will seem very full - fold in half and crease slightly so they stay closed. Grill for a few minutes on each side, pressing them closed occasionally with a spatula to help the spinach to cook down. Enjoy!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Back to Earth

Yesterday I had a few truly amazing moments. I was sitting in our backyard with my constitutional law book, studying what I've learned the past few weeks and enjoying the fall weather. I was deep in thought, pondering our nation's history of racism and the path that the Civil Rights Movement took. I rejoiced over the outcome of Brown v. Board of Education, but was troubled by the realities of that era. I marveled over the careful strategizing of civil rights advocates that led to their eventual triumph, and I considered the parallels in the issues of today. It suddenly felt like there are big things going on in the world. Maybe I should try to solve some of these BIG things. Or at least think about them a bit more.

Still in my reverie, I started to notice how perfect the temperature was around me. The two redwood trees that sit just beyond our back fence were towering above me. As the wind gushed through the trees, I heard an intense whoosh of sound, followed by the twitter of birds nearby. It was absolutely wonderful. Peaceful. Rare.

Then I heard a small sound from inside the house, which gently nudged me from my daydream. As I started getting up I looked down. I was immediately faced with the cartoon faces of dogs in costumes. Scattered all over my shirt, and even on the tops of my socks, were Halloween stickers that my toddler had generously passed out all weekend. I turned towards the house with a smile as my husband greeted me. He too was covered in canine wizards and feline goblins. We laughed at ourselves, and just like that the spell was broken.

Kids. They really keep you grounded. Thank goodness!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Local Greats

My interest in "buying local" started a few years ago when I ordered a box of farm-fresh produce to be delivered every two weeks. It was a lot of fun because I let them choose what to put in my produce box. I was exposed to new varieties of fruits and vegetables and felt good about supporting local farmers.

Although I'm not a "buy local" fanatic by any means, I do appreciate the value of purchasing things that are locally produced. I also find myself looking for unique local businesses when I travel to new places. So my latest addition to this blog is a list of "Local Greats" in the panel to the right, including noteworthy businesses here in Davis and those that I discovery when I visit other places. Hopefully this will introduce local readers to some unfamiliar gems in Davis. It may even encourage non-local readers to visit Davis more often. And maybe, just maybe, it will inspire somebody to look for worthwhile local businesses in their own communities. A lofty idea, I know!

Davis has great supermarkets, and the best by far is Nugget Market. Nuggest first opened in 1926 in a town just up the road from Davis. Since then it has expanded to nine locations, but it has remained a local, family-run business. My favorite thing about Nugget is their bakery. I go there to buy dessert, but I also go there to "window shop." Their desserts are absolutely beautiful, and they change daily. My toddler's favorite are the cupcakes. Here's a sample of one of their adorable creations:

My hubby and I have long adored their strawberries 'n' cream cake, but last night we discovered our new favorite. Nugget's tiramisu, pictured at the top of this post, is absolutely sublime.

Keep your eyes out for more Local Greats in the panel to the right.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Fall is finally upon us! I've always loved fall. A lot of that has to do with the weather - the breezes, the pleasant temperatures, and the sound of rustling leaves.

Then in recent years I've expanded my repertoire of favorite fall foods, which has become another big reason to savor this time of year. This season I haven't cooked much that's decidedly fall-ish, except for a single batch of pumpkin soup. I tried a new recipe that was quite yummy, with only a few minor adjustments. I added extra garlic (of course!), used cubed sweet potatoes instead of the cubed butternut squash, and I added a teaspoon of dried rosemary to the veggies as they sauteed at the beginning rather than the fresh rosemary at the end. I told my toddler it was "Halloween soup." She bought into the idea, and has asked for it again several times since. Thanks goodness I had some left over in the freezer!

Incidentally, I have a new and fantastic reason to love fall. Now that my toddler is old enough to really "get" Halloween, it's been fun to re-discover it from a child's perspective. Last year she didn't really figure out what Halloween was about until it was completely over, and since then she's literally talked about it ever week. She's talked about trick-or-treating, debated about whether she should dress up as a princess or a ballerina, but mostly she's just asked why we can't have Halloween tomorrow. At one point when I told her Halloween wouldn't be for a long, long time, she responded, "Yeah, but we can still have 'different' Halloween."

So I knew that we would have to do Halloween in a BIG way this year. We have her costume ready to go, I'm working on costumes for me and my hubby, and we have no fewer than three Halloween parties to attend next week. Now I'm just wondering what I've missed. Wait a minute - I haven't planned my Halloween menu yet! And maybe I could squeeze in another party. OK, I better get to work . . .

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It's What's For Dinner

That's right. Tofu.

Isn't tofu mysterious? I've always felt like I should like it. (In fact, I LOVE it!) But there IS a strange sense of duty there. I mean, if a vegetarian health nut doesn't like it, then who would, right? Tofu, with all of its protein goodness, just might be abandoned altogether. And we certainly can't have that. So I guess I love tofu both on principle and because I actually enjoy eating it.

But until recently I was stumped at how to cook it myself. Absolutely stumped. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I haven't tried to cook tofu. I've pressed, blended, pureed, and baked like the best of them. But always to disappointment. I've gone through periods of abstention and periods of reinvigorated attempts. Then recently I decided that the vegetarian-healthnut-mom that I am absolutely needs to solve this mystery so that I can impart my health nut tendencies on my daughter. Again, it's a principle thing. My daughter should eat tofu.

So now I'm all ears. Please, please, please - if you have unlocked any secrets to cooking tofu at home, share your wisdom with me. Seriously. Email me those recipes!

In the meantime, maybe, just maybe, I've started to chip away at the tofu code. Just recently, as I returned to the tofu department of my favorite grocery store with renewed resolve, it dawned on me that I might have known the solution all along. And I can report that after several of my most recent attempts my husband couldn't keep his hands off the plate while I wrestled with the camera (alla, picture!) and my daughter requested the leftovers for her lunch today. We're talking real success, folks.

So what's the solution, you ask? Well I'm sure it's obvious. Just FRY the darn stuff!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mystery Solved

Last spring our two family dogs Holden and Lillie passed away. They were quite old and had lived long, happy lives, but their disappearance has continued to be confusing to my toddler. Her imagination has a tendency to run wild, so I've avoided explaining that they went to sleep and never woke up or that they got sick and never got better. This could lead to many sleepless nights, and nobody wants to see a phobic toddler running around taking her temperature every five minutes. Of course we'll have to face this topic eventually, but for now I'm trying to let her understand it in her own way. She brought it up this past weekend.

Toddler: Where are Holden and Lillie?
Me: They’re not here anymore.
Toddler: When are they coming back?
Me: Well, actually, they’re not coming back.
Toddler: Can we go visit them? Are they at the pet store?
Me, trying to change the subject: No, they’re not at the pet store. But there are other animals at the pet store. Maybe we can talk to Daddy about getting another pet. Would you like that?
Toddler: Yes.
Me: Would you like a dog or a cat? [pause] I think I would really like a cat.
Toddler: I want a dog.
Me: OK, let’s talk to daddy about it when he gets home. But cats are easier to take care of, you know.
Toddler: Oh. [pause] So when are Holden and Lillie coming back?
Me, realizing I have to try a new approach: Well, they’re not coming back because now they’re in our hearts.
Toddler, looking puzzled: They’re in your heart?
Me, hopeful that she will understand: Yes. And they’re in your heart, too.
Toddler: Oh.
[long pause]
Toddler, laughing: Naaahh. They’re not in my heart. They’re at the pet store!
Me: OK, they’re at the pet store.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Weekends are for eating around our house. And Sundays in particular are for cooking. Today's lunch came together quite nicely, so I thought I'd share.

This dish is super easy. You'll need:
  • About 1/2 can black beans, rinsed well
  • About 1/4 cup crumbled feta (or queso fresco)
  • About 1/2 a pint of grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 ripe avocado, chopped (I do this by cutting it in half, scoring it in the peel, then scooping it out with a spoon)
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime, or a little more to taste (I like a lot!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper, optional (I only added pepper)
  • Tabasco, to taste (I like about 2 tiny flits of the wrist, which is enough to make your taste buds sparkle without any burn)
  • About 4 medium or 6 small tortillas
  • Lettuce or spinach

Put the first seven ingredients in a bowl. Add the Tabasco carefully - a small amount adds a little zing, but if you add more you'll get some real heat. Stir the filling well so that the lime juice and Tabasco are well mixed and they coat all of the ingredients. The tortillas can be warm or room temperature. Simply spoon the filling into the tortillas, add the lettuce or spinach for some crunch, and dive in.

It's a very basic recipe, but we enjoyed it. If you try it, let me know what you think!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Listmaker

You would think that making lists would make a person more organized, right? Well, I think this is only sometimes true. You see, I'm a habitual list maker. I make lists in several places on my computer. I make lists on several notebooks at home. I also have several different sizes of post-it notes filled with lists, all scattered around in my purse, school bag, and various rooms of my house. There's no question that it helps me to unload my mental lists on paper, so that then I can focus on whatever is before me without those thoughts cluttering my brain. But this doesn't necessarily mean that I can actually find that list again when it's time to use the information that I wrote down. Better mental clarity? Absolutely. Perpetually organized? Not so much.

There IS one component of my list-making behavior that is both deliberate and discriminating. That's my list filing system. Yes, I actually have a list filing system. This is where I keep a very small number of my most treasured lists. At one time I kept a list of baby names that my then-fiance and I had whimsically written down one evening. I've also kept a list of local businesses I discovered on trips that have websites for online shopping, so that I can order from them later on.

Most of the lists that reach the coveted filing system status, however, are lists that I don't actually create myself. My next treasured entry will be this list of affordable hotels located all around the world, courtesy of the New York Times.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I love to play with my food. I'm not sure how or when this started, but in recent years I've attempted to take multi-tasking to a different level. That's right. . . By playing with my food.

Most of my multi-tasking foodplay involve edible decorations and color-themed menus. For special occasions I've made scented centerpieces out of ingredients from the produce aisle. (Think major color contrast, like cherry with mint leaves or lightly zested mandarin oranges with cranberries.) I've also done holiday parties with only red and green food on the menu. And last year I made a tiny, fragrant turkey decoration by adorning an orange with cinnamon sticks and whole cloves. latest foodplay was last weekend when I attempted to dress-up your basic kiddie snacks, add color to the food presentation, and stick with a fall theme. Here's what I threw together:

I must admit it was far from perfect, but I literally threw the snacks into the dish and moved on to my next task. Kinda silly, I know. But fun nonetheless!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Eat Often and Eat Well

I was fascinated by Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma. Pollan has a newer book out that I just ordered from amazon, and I can't wait to dive into it. In the meantime, his recent articles in the New York Times crack me up. Apparently he collected the food rules that people choose to live by and then compiled his favorites. Enjoy!
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