Wednesday, September 30, 2009

fall perfection

one of my favorite things to bake for a get-together at our house is alice waters' onion tart; it is full of deliciously caramelized onions and a perfectly flaky crust. it's easy to make and people love it- usually even if they don't love onions. also, it's the perfect division of labor recipe! matt makes the crust and i make the rest. yum. 

i've mentioned waters' the art of simple food cookbook before. i highly recommend it if you are looking for no-fail, simple recipes.

(i've modified the recipe a bit to the way i make it, after finding it online here)

onion tart
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter cut in cubes
  • 1/4 cup ice-cold water
  • Use a pastry blender (or fork or bench scraper) to cut the butter into the flour and salt until a few large clumps remain. Pour in 3/4 of the water and stir it in with a fork. Using your scraper, continue lifting and folding the dough over onto itself until it holds together, which should take about a minute. Add more water a few drops at a time if needed. Wrap it all in plastic and refrigerate it for at least an hour. (This is where is pays to plan ahead, my friends, and this is why Matt starts the crust and I swoop in to finish it. He's a planner; I'm an improviser)
  • In the meantime, cook two pounds of thinly sliced onions in a large skillet with four tablespoons of butter and a few sprigs of thyme. Cook them for at least thirty minutes (I usually end up cooking them for about 45), until they are very soft and juicy, keeping in mind that they will still face nearly an hour in the oven. Season well with salt. When they are cooked, cool them for at least ten minutes in a bowl.
  • (When they are cooling I usually throw in about a 2 tsp. of rice wine vinegar & a tsp. of honey. This is a non-Alice Waters variation, but I find that it makes the flavor a little more complex)
  • Preheat the oven to 375ยบ. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a fourteen-inch circle. Pinch together any cracks that form while rolling. Place the circle on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and let it firm up in the refrigerator for about ten minutes. 

Spread the onions on the dough, leaving a 1.5-inch border all around and removing the thyme sprigs as you go. Fold the border over the onions. 

I've had the best results brushing the crust with egg wash, and sprinkling some kosher or sea salt on the crust. Cook for about 50 minutes, until the bottom of the crust is well browned. Let it cool completely on a rack-this ensures that the crust stays crisp. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

showered with love

my sister rebecca and her husband mark are expecting a baby girl on october 30th, 
so i threw baby anderson a shower. 
{girls only}

just like i'd hoped, it was an absolutely beautiful afternoon, so we set up in the backyard!
outside means sidewalk chalk. 
(i heart sidewalk chalk)

setting up a few hours before. 
i found this fabric on etsy that i fell in love with, 
and i commissioned my mom to sew the amazing bunting that we hung all over the backyard.
 i am sort of obsessed with how gorgeous they turned out. 
i love love love them.
{great job, mom!}
i'm sure you'll be spotting these cuties at multiple festivities in future blog posts...
sweet raspberry lemonade
easy to make (although the straining of seeds=not so much fun) & oh-so-delicious
we made rebecca a book full of wisdom, encouragement and advice for her journey as a mama
hard at work writing bits of wisdom
i wanted to have photos from both rebecca & mark's 
infancy and childhood strung as another bunting. 
mark's mom uploaded photos from when mark was a little boy, 
and i got some slides of rebecca turned into prints. 
so cute!
perfect backdrop to our yummy eats.

our menu was eclectic, but i picked things i knew rebecca loved to eat
mmm. onion tarts.
(recipe to follow in another post)

now insert assorted shower games; after all, my sister loves games!
i gocco-ed little prizes for everyone, which i'll save for another post.
for dessert we had mini brownies, 
these adorable button cookies that i spotted on sweetamb's shop on etsy 
(so yummy and so cute- as soon as i saw them i had to have them for the shower! 
plus they are handmade in chicago, mark's home city. perfect!)
lemon curd ice cream cake.
delicious, my friends!
you can find the recipe on my friend hannah's blog.
(you can thank me for passing it along and hannah for concocting it)
culinary genius, 
and the best way to end the shower besides our beauty bar!

favors galore at the beauty bar: 
chocolate mints, tissues, candy necklaces, lip gloss and nail polish! 

i can't help it- 
this was my favorite part.
at the end, little m came out to visit the ladies

and her aunt rebecca
my sister, mama to be, & me

i think fun was had by all,
but by the end, 
little m was ready for the party to be over

Monday, September 28, 2009

happy monday!

threw a baby shower for my sister yesterday.
this bunting is a sneak peek-
i'm still so exhausted from all of the festivities that i am going to steal a nap 
while little m (hopefully, despite the recent nap strike) naps!
more to follow...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

like mother, like daughter

when i was an itty bitty child, my mom would try to read to me, but i would reject her and just wanted to read books all by myself (even though i couldn't "read" yet). 

looks like little m is following in my headstrong footsteps at the tender age of 17 months. i try and try to woo her with my excellent narration skills, but she usually wants to read books by herself, no mommy involved. sigh. i think it is a bit disheartening to the grandmas too, as what grandma doesn't want to snuggle up for storytime?

exhibit a:
auntie nancy reads bedtime stories to micah and little m.
notice little m reading her own book while micah enjoys goodnight moon.
micah pauses to mug for the camera 
(check out that cuteness!)
m is momentarily distracted by auntie nancy and then goes back to doing her own thing.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

everybody has something

on monday morning matt, little m, and i went to a memorial service for a man who was a mentor and friend to matt, the rev. dr. frank jackson. appropriately, monday happened to be world gratitude day, because frank epitomized living a life of thanks and gratitude. amidst the grief, was a celebration. it was pretty incredible to sit in a huge church packed full of people of all ethnicities, classes, backgrounds, geographies, ages, and grieve and celebrate together. 

after the service, as people milled about outside of the church, little m was running around after some "big" girls, trying to play with them. they were 8 and 9 years old, and complete strangers to little m, but somehow she caught their attention. i squatted down to be at the level of all of these little girls, and one of the girls said, "what are those things on her ears and head?" i said, "well, when she was born, she was born deaf. her ears can't hear anything. she had an operation to help her learn how to hear, and these are called implants; they help her hear the things in the world around her." i pulled one off and showed them how her implant worked, and said, "see? without this on right now she can't hear anything, but when she wears it she is learning how to listen." 

the little girl, who was wearing glasses & whose eyes were visibly damaged, nodded and said, "i was born with glaucoma. i have a tumor in my eye. but they couldn't fix it all the way. it's kind of hard sometimes." the second girl said, "i was born with really bad asthma. sometimes it's so bad my mom and dad think i'm going to die so they have to take me to the hospital because i can't breathe at all." the third girl said, "i was born with excema. sometimes it is all over my body and in my ears and even my special medicine doesn't work."

it was amazing to me that suddenly all of these girls were connected through the things that made them "different." i said, "it's true, everybody has something.

then i started thinking about people in my life - grown-ups, that is. 

everybody has something: cancer at a really young age, a child born with special challenges, a spouse who abandons or betrays, the inability to get pregnant, the death of a parent far too soon, unjust legal issues, broken vocational dreams, damaged family relationships, chronic pain, having to work at a life-sucking job to survive...

it is also true that some of us have more than others, so we need to encourage and listen to each other. our own pain can teach us how to be truly empathetic friends and how to love others in their loss. one of the things that struck me at frank jackson's funeral was how his life was full of joy, charisma, gratitude and gentleness, after an extremely difficult and broken childhood. we have a choice whether we allow our "something" to make us bitter, or allow it to mold us into kinder, more loving and compassionate people. 

Friday, September 18, 2009


this morning i am working in my studio.
life has been so full lately that it has been hard to get it there consistently,
but yesterday and today i was able to go in and paint.

{hours to work, blank paper & canvas galore, is glorious and insecurity inducing all at once.}

have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

one year ago

september 17 2008

2 babysitting uncles + 1 bowl of rice cereal + little m = a mostly successful meal

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

falling down & getting back up

{little m racing around the livingroom}

i have long held this flawed belief that i should be an expert at things the first time i try them. if i am not really good at something, then i either quit, complain, or feel stupid so i never try it again. (disclaimer: i don't like this personal quality, i'm just admitting that i have it.)

exhibit a: going to a new class at the gym. 

for instance, hip hop. 

for instance, hip hop that has very long and complicated routines. 

and so obviously, since it is my first time attempting the class and its' 28-move-long routine, i suck. and i never return and i feel like an extremely uncoordinated klutz who should be banned from group exercise classes. 

there are plenty of other examples, but let's just stick to one for today.

suffice it to say, it is one of those qualities that you loath in yourself, but it is so ingrained that it is hard to talk yourself out of it once you start to go down that path. daughter.
17 months of experimentation as she has learned to nurse, roll over, eat solids, crawl, pick up her pacifier and put it in he mouth, walk, listen, and so on....has taught me one thing: it's ok to fail the first time. and the fifth. and the 78th. because by the 116th time, you'll get it. and by the 2,345th time, you'll be an expert. 

my daughter doesn't have all of the hang-ups i do about feeling embarrassed, stupid or other people thinking she's not cool. she falls and gets right back up to try again. then she falls and tries a new method.

i know this is not a revolutionary thought, but i wonder when it is that we lose this tenacity, this drive to keep trying something until we master it without fear of rejection or failure. it has taken a one year old to teach me that it is ok if i'm not that great at hip hop.

i went to a kickboxing class a few weeks ago. and i flailed and messed up and missed complete moves and jabbed when i was supposed to uppercut. i sucked. but the whole time i kept telling myself: this is the first time i am taking this class. it took little m months to learn to walk, and now she runs around the house. i'll be a little better next time.

so i went  back again, and to be honest i still wasn't that great. i started to slip into frustration and my old perfectionist self. then i remembered: it's only my second time. i'll be a little better next time.

it's ok to try something new, fail miserably, try again, and yes, try again. otherwise when do we discover anything new? i look at my daughter and she delights in the world- in all of the new and undone and potential. i want to be like that, even if i get some bumps and bruises along the way.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

birthday girl

courtney is one of my friends with history. 

as in, 
we have been friends for a long time: 
since the days when we thought it was cool to wear xxl denim shirts and oversized overalls, when fine dining meant a trip to chevy's with 20 other people, 
when we talked about boys for hours 
despite aforementioned boys being hypothetical and not actually existing in our lives. 
as in, we have been friends for 15 years.
courtney was with me the morning matt whisked me away to propose, 
she stood next to me in a red bridesmaid dress the day i said 'I do,' 
and she showed up at the hospital within hours of little m being born. 

she is one of my very favorite people in the world, 
and i challenge you to find someone who is a better friend. 
seriously people. 

courtney is one of those friends who remembers to call you on the first day of a new job to see how it went, who drops you notes in the mail on cute letterpress cards, who always asks first how you are doing instead of talking about herself, who is good at being a long distance friend and a close up, day-to-day grind friend too. 
she listens, laughs, prays, and cries with me. 
she has truly taught me the meaning of friendship- and not in a hallmark card kind of way. 
she shows up in the good and the hard, and i love her dearly. 

last week was her birthday! 
so a group of us got together on saturday morning to celebrate 
our kind, thoughtful, amazing friend.

birthday massive sweet roll.
treats for the birthday girl.
(love the sunshiney flowers)
birthday french toast
birthday....whipped cream with mini chocolate chips?
um, apparently this is the restaurant's version of cake. a bowl of whipped cream.
matt and our friend larry were taking his kidlet brennan and little m 
on a walk around san francisco,
so they surprised us by stopping by!
then they headed back out to scout good food and coffee on their "hike"

the restaurant doesn't just give you a bowl of whipped cream...
you also get a blinking happy birthday pin!
saucy karen shows off her baby bump
yummy brownies
yay for good friends and creating longer and longer shared histories!

p.s. she no longer wears overalls.

school days

this morning
we are headed off to school
(little m has school pictures today!)
no time to blog
i'll be back later

happy tuesday!

Friday, September 11, 2009

early autumn

last saturday we hung out with my sister rebecca & her husband mark! we went on a walk to the park near their house to play bocce ball and enjoy the evening before dinner. it was so relaxing to go frolic at the park, and felt very italian to go on a pre-dinner walk.

little m gets hitches a ride and gets a high five from uncle mark.
(little m's cousin, squirreled away in her aunt rebecca's belly until the end of october. )
so, we played bocce, but it seemed like matt somehow won every single round. 
i usually chalk bocce up to being one of those games that entails more luck than skill. 
or maybe i didn't do so hot. 
i kind of overthrew every single time - i just don't know my own strength i guess.
(or i'm just not that athletic..which is probably more accurate)
little m didn't quite understand the rules of the game, 
so she decided to play along by picking up the balls we threw.
in the end we decided to change the game 
that whomever's ball ended up closer to, or in the possession of, 
little m was the winner. 
(uh, i still didn't even come close to winning a single round)
little m & her cute aunt becca
little m sitting on top of her cousin
some downward down action in the midst of the bocce game
we moved on to play on the slide once matt won 78 consecutive rounds of bocce.

fun time sliding down and old school metal slide! 
uncle mark and aunt bec will be amazing parents. 
i think we should give them a few more babysitting times before october, 
just so they get some extra practice in. 
i love this park. 
it was the perfect early fall weekend jaunt!