Desert Date

18 Apr

This post is a month old–what else is new old?

Truth is, I’m not in this space as much as I’d like. I think this rambunctious 14-month-old has something to do with it:

Just a kid in a candy store. We were SUPPOSED to be hanging out with our friends at a splash pad playdate. Instead, I spent the better part of an hour chasing Emily in and out of this nearby candy store before giving up and heading home. #likeamagnet #whyidonthavetimetowrite #thehair

But last month’s date’s been on my mind, compliments of the full moon. (Yes, we’re doing monthly dates. No, it wasn’t a New Year’s Resolution. Yes, we talk about our kid while we’re out. And it’s awesome.)

Chiluhly 2014 031

Last month found us at the Desert Botanical Garden for the Chihuly exhibit. We’d been tipped off that the 4-8pm time slot would enable us to see the glass installations by day and also lit up at night, but through no fault planning of our own, we serendipitously wound up there on the night of the full moon.

Best. Date. Ever.

Eric was in photography heaven (and so were the crowds of photography students who actually planned to be there for the full moon) so I’ll let his photos (mostly) speak for themselves:

Needles among the cacti

Neon hills

One of these things is not like the other…

Perhaps this one was beamed down from an alien spaceship…I can feel those creepy-crawlies.

This one reminds me of a Dr. Seuss novel. (See, I told you we talk about the baby on date night.)

The fireball

Day…

…Night

Saguaro silhouette

Boating party

Goodnight Moon. (Yet another kid’s book reference…)

This month’s date was a little less romantic (at a D-backs game with our families, but without the baby!), but we have big plans to check out downtown’s not-yet-opened Changing Hands’ First Draft bookstore/bar (!!!) in May. Books? Beer? No baby? We’re there.

Psst! Wanna see the glass works of art for yourself? The exhibit runs through May 18th. 

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In Old News, Cabbage Gratin

28 Mar

No alcohol was consumed during this photo shoot ;)

Apparently this blog has a reputation for untimely St. Patrick’s Day posts (see herehere aaaand here).

But isn’t that the Irish way? I stayed up past my bedtime many nights on our trip to the emerald isle, patiently sipping Guinness in a pub as I waited for the Celtic music to start at 9:30pm (as the guidebooks promised), only to have the guitar players and tin whistlers saunter in at 9:45 or 9:50. On a particularly late night, even one of the musicians grew tired so naturally a fellow bandmate hollered to the barmaid: Get her an Irish coffee without the Irish!

That’s Ireland. And I love it so.

Eric made this cabbage gratin to use up the leftover cabbage from our St. Patrick’s Day festivities, and while it may not look it, it was amazing. Like a cross between a quiche and, well, a cabbage I guess. I told Eric it tasted like something I’d order in a tearoom, which is pretty much the highest compliment I could give.

Our Irish lassie…1 year ago

But back to the booze. We didn’t take posed pictures of Emily during her first year with a lovie or special object to show how much she’s grown (arguably, though, she’s still one highly-photographed little lady). The closest thing we have to measure her increasing stature is a bottle of whiskey from her first St. Paddy’s Day, way back when she was just a wee lassie of 1 month old. Now that bottle is just a little taller than her knee. 

As the Irish say: Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir. Or, time is a great storyteller. 

Cabbage Gratin

A delicate and subtle dish that makes about 6 servings

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

6 cups cabbage (about a pound), cooked and shredded (and ideally leftover from St. Patrick’s Day)

2 large eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)

Butter a 2-quart gratin dish and layer with 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cheddar cheese, flour, salt and cardamon. Add the cabbage to the mixture, pour into the gratin dish, and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes or until golden brown. Put your 13-month-old down for a nap and enjoy on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

Adapted from–where else–The Joy of Cooking

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Lemons and cookies and cocktails, oh my!

11 Mar

It’s mid-March, which means our lemon tree looks like this:

What do you do with thousands of lemons? You make these cookies and this cocktail.

THESE cookies.

Lemon shortbread cookies

These lemon cloud cookies were made for a lemonade playplate at the park. They had a satisfying crunch, tasted of lemon (duh), and were devoured by a crowd of happy sticky-fingered kids.

THIS cocktail.

Whiskey Sour

This cocktail was consumed while making these cookies. I had half a lemon and a hankering for whiskey, and then this happened:

Whiskey Sour 001

Garfield is apparently excited for the new season of Mad Men too…IndianaGeorge, please don’t cancel your cable!!!

Lemon Cloud Cookies

Makes just a little over 2 sheets of cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cornstarch

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Juice of half a large lemon (save the other half for cocktail below)

1 heaping teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated

Combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Batter may look broken and curdled.  Beat in the lemon juice and zest.

Gradually beat in the flour.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and give the dough a few good turns with your spatula to bring it all together.

Drop rounded tablespoons of dough about 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes or until slightly golden. Slide the parchment paper off the pan to cool completely.

Adapted from the always-fabulous Joy the Baker

Whiskey Sour

Makes one drink

Shot of whiskey

Juice of half a lemon

Water, about 3/4 shot glass worth

1 tablespoon sugar

Stir and serve on the rocks. Sip over an episode of Mad Men if you’re in the mood. ;-)

Recipe adapted from a plethora of lemon cocktail recipes Eric found somewhere on the Interweb…did I mention we have a lot of lemons? We’re considering dubbing it the signature cocktail of The Desert Abode…

Psst! Jonesing for more lemon recipes? Check out this lemon week post of yore.

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The Mad Hatter’s Take on Tea Sandwiches

5 Mar

Mommy_Job

It’s Thursday night. I’m at the Sugar Bowl with my sister and brother-in-law, pre-kids. Eric calls to say he’s running late and that we should order without him.

So we do.

Without hesitation and without looking at the menu, the three of us order The Turkey Special in unison: a slab of roasted turkey complete with stuffing and mashed potatoes smothered in gravy.

It’s Turkey Thursday–after all–the reason we’re here.

Best_daddy

Eric enters the 50s-era restaurant and saddles up to the table. The waitress comes round and asks Eric what he wants–and, without hesitation–he orders:

“I’ll have the tea sandwiches.”

No manly plate of meat for him. Eric’s a tea-sandwich guy through and through. I kind of love this about him. Don’t get me wrong, he will happily eat–and more importantly, grill–a mean steak, but what can I say: The guy loves tea sandwiches.

All_Finished

This makes him the perfect afternoon tea date because while he loves tea sandwiches, I feel ho-hum about them. I’m in it for the scones and desserts (and tea of course). It’s how I got him to take me to tea for the very first time at Butchart Gardens in Victoria–when he didn’t even like tea. As it turned out, my tea-sandwich-loving husband not only ate my share of the tiny finger sandwiches that day, but he also drank me under the table and has been my teatime companion ever since.

All images courtesy of The Sugar Bowl. You can click to enlarge them if you wish.

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Sandwiches (seen in this post)

Take note!
All recipes are from The Joy of Cooking. They have an excellent section devoted to the art of tea sandwiches entitled: Ideas for Tea Sandwiches. We doubled all recipes herein, which required 3 loaves of bread (crusts removed) and served 15 people. Should you not be throwing a Mad Hatter birthday tea party (and you really should), the portions below are more apt to feed a family rather than a crowd.

Chicken salad
2 to 2 1/2 cups shredded white and dark chicken meat
1 cup celery, diced
1/2 to 1 cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
Remove skin from chicken and Crock-Pot for 3 to 3 1/2 hours on high until chicken is cooked and falls off the bone. Note that it is important to use white and dark meat for the best flavor (we used split chicken breasts and leg quarters). Cool and refrigerate until ready to prepare tea sandwiches. Then, combine all ingredients and spread on bread.

Egg salad
Combine in a medium bowl:
6 hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped
1/4 to 1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons onions, minced
2 tablespoons celery, minced
Pepper to taste
Refrigerate until cold and spread on bread.

Cucumber
Bring your butter to room temperature (for high tea, we suggest you spring for the good stuff: Kerry Gold). Peel and thinly slice one cucumber. Spread softened butter on bread and add cucumber slices, slightly overlapping. 

Psst! Made some yummy lemon shortbread cookies for a playdate today. Recipe coming at ya soon–with bonus cocktail recipe! Cocktail not consumed at playdate… ;-)

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A Mad Hatter Tea Party

20 Feb

For a little girl who loves tea parties, there was really no other way to celebrate her 1st birthday…

Alice in wonderland tea party b&w

And since I adore the illustrations in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, here’s a party peek through the looking-glass.

THE PARTY DRESS

The dress

Green satin with a lace flower overlay and a big ol’ bow in the back. Shoes optional.

THE MAD HATTER

Aka: Daddy in a top hat

THE ONESIES

Onesies from days gone by…

THE BALLOONS

A-buck-a-balloon post-Valentine’s-Day closeout. Valentine birthday for the win.

THE MENU

(Click to enlarge if you so please)

THE TEA SANDWICHES

Compliments of The Mad Hatter: a tea-sandwich-loving Dad

THE TABLES

Flowers and cupids and hearts, oh my!

Tea for ONE (or 15 plus two babies)

The kiddie table, complete with play tea set

THE HOSTESS WITH THE MOSTEST

Sat though one course and spent the rest of the tea party running back and forth from the kitchen to the dining room “entertaining” her guests ;)

THE CAKE

Beet-red velvet cake with orange buttercream–accompanied by a smash cake that the birthday girl shared with a VERY happy dog.

THE SPECIAL GUEST

The other “Alice” in ONEderland…a very special Great-Great Aunt

THE PRESENTS

Piled high outside on a warm sunny day #winterbirthdayinphx

THE FAVORS

Cornmeal sugar cookie hearts packaged in owl Valentines

THE GOOD TIMES

Oh what fun it is to turn ONE.

THE AFTER PARTY

When you’re too excited to go to sleep, the next best thing is to play fetch with your doggie cousin ;-)

Welcome to ONEderland, Emily Alice! Down the rabbit hole we go…

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Valentine’s Day: A Mother’s Retrospective

13 Feb

Last Valentine’s Eve I ate spicy Mexican food in an attempt to get my labor started…

This February 13th I will crawl into bed equal parts excited and sad that my baby will turn 1 the next day (and there’s no old wives’ tale I can try to stop it from happening).

Last Valentine’s Day I held you in my arms for the very first time…

This Valentine’s Day I will hold you in my arms–briefly–for the thousandth time before you want down to walk run around the house.

Last Valentine’s Day I had no idea what the year had in store for us–or what taking care of a baby would be like…

This Valentine’s Day I have no idea what the year has in store for us–or what parenting a toddler will be like.

But I do know that I love you more than words or even pictures of the two of us can convey–and I’ve never been happier. Happy (almost) birthday my darling girl.

You will always be Mommy’s special Valentine.

Psst! Mad Hatter tea party prep is underway…stay tuned for a birthday party recap!

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Luck be a Potato Salad

4 Feb

The first new recipe of the year goes to…Eric!

We hosted a Pennsylvania Dutch New Year’s dinner party in which we grilled pork chops and ate sauerkraut in hopes of having good luck in the New Year…

One month in, I’d say we’re off to a pretty good start–except for a nasty 24-hour stomach bug that took our family out two weeks ago. Parenting merit badge awarded for getting our babe through her first vomiting spell. Won’t be the last, I’m sure.

But back to the potato salad. We wanted something to round out the meal and thought we’d keep things nice and simple by picking up some potato salad. However, the pre-made stuff was that imperfect combination of expensive and processed-looking to keep us from opening up our wallets…and so we came home with a bag of potatoes instead.

I mean, how hard could it be? 

Apparently, not very hard at all. Eric put this together lickety-split before I could say, “You’re done already?!”

And as luck would have it, it turned out so, soooo good.

Classic Potato Salad 

Makes a ton!

6 medium potatoes (about 2 pounds)

1 1/4 cups mayonnaise

1 heaping tablespoon prepared mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup onion, finely chopped

2 Dill pickles, finely chopped

6 hard-boiled eggs, coarsely chopped

Peel and boil potatoes until tender. Drain water and cool slightly.

In a large boil, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper. Stir in the onion and pickles. Add the potatoes and eggs. Toss lightly to coat. Cover and chill. If desired, sprinkle with paprika just before serving.

Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

Psst! Ten days to someone’s FIRST birthday! Making this cake for our little Valentine. ;-)

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Biltmore Tea (and a birthday wish for two)

26 Jan

I turned 31 this month. Although it was less fanfare-y than 30, it still felt like a BIG year. This being the year that I became a mother and all. My thirty-first year was the most wonderful, exhausting, exhilarating, overwhelming and joyous year of my life–all wrapped up in a sweet redheaded package. ;-)

Naturally, we celebrated by having high tea.

This year’s birthday tea destination was Arizona Biltmore. Eric and I sipped hazelnut truffle and cherry marzipan tea (yes, they are as good as they sound) and munched on delicate tea sandwiches and scones topped with Denvonshire clotted cream as we enjoyed a few quiet hours to reflect on the year.

Almost 1 going on 31…playing dress up with Mommy’s birthday shoes

But the best birthday present of all came the morning before afternoon tea, when our Valentine took her FIRST steps (four to be exact) much to our surprise and delight.

Which reminded me that if I’m turning 31–then she’s turning ONE. And she’s having a birthday tea party–Mad Hatter style–of her own in a few short weeks.

Oh, how time flies little one.

And so I raise my teacup and make a birthday wish for both of us: May your second and my thirty-second year be our best yet, with many more happy years ahead of us.

Cheers to that!

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Santa’s List

19 Dec

Season’s Greetings from Pinnacle Peak!

Christmas is less than a week away and I have presents for all the grownups on my list…but nothing for baby’s first Christmas.

Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

I’m a bad mother.

Actually, I’m just a busy one. And a lucky one, too. Emily’s been blessed with so many thoughtful and generous gifts throughout her first year that there isn’t a lot that she NEEDS. Plus, she’s a baby–and babies don’t always WANT to play with their designated toys. When I saw this 10-month-old’s letter to Santa I thought, yup, that’s pretty much right (especially numbers 1, 2, 4, 5 and 10).

You buy all these things for your kids and yet they’d rather play with the things WE play with. And toy versions of these same things simply won’t do.

Here are a few things THIS 10-month-old really wants for Christmas:

To explore this cold, frigid land

Also seen here. I can’t keep the baby outta the fridge, or pantry. I take her enthusiasm for constantly removing my parchment paper from the bottom pantry shelf to mean that she wants to be a baker like her mama.

The contents of my purse and diaper bag

Seen slightly less worse for wear here a year ago. My “mom purse” is endlessly entertaining, and emptying the contents of the diaper bag makes for a good time too. Other mommies’ purses are also fun, but I draw the line when she starts removing receipts one by one from someone else’s wallet (yes, this actually happened this week).

Thank you, Eric, for giving me such a nice purse and matching wallet last January and February respectively. I’m sorry our baby has turned it into a faux walker of sorts by dragging it around our dirty kitchen floor…

The dishwasher

Oh what fun it would be to help Mommy empty this thing. Clink. Clack. Crash.

My laptop

I used to work on the floor next to Emily while she happily played or laid there. Nevermore.

THE CAT!

You’ve seen this picture before here. But she wants more than the cat’s food…she wants THE CAT! Remember way back when she didn’t even seem to know that Garfield existed? Poor Garfield longs for the good ol’ days. She makes a special happy cooing sound when she sees THE CAT and has managed to catch him by the tail once or twice. Other people’s cats won’t do…she wants HER cat.

Mom’s old slippers

What could be more fun than sliding Mom’s eight-year-old (don’t judge) slippers around the house? Apparently nothing. She takes them off my feet during breakfast and that’s the last time I see them together all day–or in some cases all week. Dear Santa: please bring new slippers that won’t slip off my feet quite so easily. ;-)

Postscript: During the time I started this post and finished it, I went out and bought presents for our redheaded elf. Please give me back my parchment paper, purse, diaper bag, laptop and slippers, Miss Emily!

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Stuffed

2 Dec

You know I love a little post-holiday recap so here it goes…

We hosted Thanksgiving again, and this year we had out-of-town guests (and for the first time house guests!), new friends and two babies at the table. Someone even got her very own Thanksgiving plate with turkey, gravy and all the trimmings…

That’s right, Emily’s eating table foods.

Turkey and gravy and stuffing, oh my!

How is it possible that Emily’s eating from the table and yet I’ve barely mentioned anything about eating solids on this blog? Probably because it was practically over before it began. After nearly 3 months of purees and carefully introducing foods one at a time, the doc gave us the OK to feed her what we’re eating (with a few exceptions, of course).

I suppose I could have posted a baby-food recipe or two, but making Emily’s food was really pretty simple. I didn’t have any fancy equipment or complicated recipes–just an immersion blender (the same one I use for soups), a steamer basket (the same one I use to steam our own veggies) and a couple ice-cube trays for storage–and Emily took to just about everything I made her.

She’s tried everything from blueberries and bananas to this chicken and even these pancakes. Heck, she’s even had my pumpkin pie.

Can’t keep the redhead out of the fridge–or pantry for that matter.

Almost everything that’s gone into her mouth has come straight from my kitchen. We tried a couple packaged baby foods while we were traveling, but we thought they all tasted like canned tomato sauce. So I made my own. Which, let’s face it, I probably would have done regardless.

I want Emily to know that food doesn’t (usually) come from a box or a can or a plastic wrapper. I want her to know that food comes from Mother Earth and that there are seasons and occasions and traditions associated with what we eat and when. I want her to know that what she puts into her body matters, and that food should be as minimally processed as possible. I want her to know that cooking is an act of love, but moreover it’s nothing to be feared; following a recipe, after all, needn’t be more complicated than following instructions on some package. The best foods are prepared simply and seasonally, and shared with those you love.

That’s why I adore Thanksgiving. It’s about from-scratch cooking, utilizing the season’s bounty and recipes that have been passed down through generations. I love that the fourth Thursday of every November we eat turkey…and stuffing and sweet potatoes and cranberries and all the trimmings. And we gather round the table with family and friends–9-month-olds and 86-year-olds alike—and give thanks.

For that I am thankful.

Psst! One year ago today was Emily’s baby shower! And at 9 1/2-months-old, Emily’s officially been OUT for as long as she was IN!

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