Monday, January 28, 2008

they can read!

I have a weird relationship with reading. From what I can tell, I started reading at an abnormally early age, and I don't remember when I couldn't read. My mom likes to tell the story of how, at age four, I was caught not paying attention during "cooking time" in preschool and the teacher asked me to repeat the step of the recipe that had just been explained. I glanced at the big pad of paper where the recipe was written, and read the answer aloud. Then I audibly whispered to my friend, "See? When you know how to read, you don't have to listen to the teacher!"

In elementary school I was ahead of most of my classmates in the subject. Although I am quite literate, and have what I guess is an above-average vocabulary, I now have significant trouble reading for school or for pleasure. My problems have more to do with ability to focus than with actual literacy. And I miss being the kid who loved to read.

Even so, it's easy to take for granted the more practical uses for reading. Restaurant menus, road signs, instructions, song lyrics...when I worked at an adult literacy program, I learned how challenging everyday life can be when you can't read. So I was so excited this weekend to see Khymi and Big Girl Monster reading Frog and Toad are Friends aloud to each other. I feel like they are on the edge of something big, and I'm so glad Khymi has a friend who can experience this with her.

It's always nice to be read to; even long after I could read fluently, I enjoyed hearing a bedtime story. But being able to read to yourself opens up so many possibilities. Reading saved me from abject boredom on numerous long family car trips; Khymi regularly spends a lot of time in the car between here and Mama's, and I think she'll be so happy to have another option available to keep herself occupied, without having to depend on an adult to read to her. It is a huge step towards independence. I am thrilled for her.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

in which the locavore discovers one of his roots

After an afternoon of grubbing bamboo out of the 1'x5' bed in front of the house, I ran to the local co-op for some staples. As a reward for winning an argument with myself over which greens were best ($1 red cabbage beat wimpy-looking kale), I decided to take a chance on a bagful of parsnips. They're local and seasonal, I told myself, climate-appropriate, and new and exciting.

Oh man. I had no idea just how exciting. If you must know, they were this exciting:

If you're like me and have never had parsnips before, they're like a cross between a carrot and a potato. They're starchy like potatoes, but sweet and carrot-looking. (According to the genius box, Romans used the same word for them as for carrots.) I'd say they're sweeter than carrots, though. They're like tuber candy!

We took a recipe from Edible Chesapeake, combined it with some improvised fried collards, and got a sort of all-local cousin of colcannon. IT WAS SO DELICIOUS WE COULD NOT STOP EATING IT.

(See our recipe by clicking on "Full Post" below.)

Chesapeake "Colcannon" (J & M '08)

2 lb parsnips, peeled & cut into ~1"-thick rounds
1/2 lb potatoes (about 2 medium), cut into ~1"-thick rounds
4 Tbs butter
1/2 cup milk, or enough to make a smooth creamy mash
~2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 big handfuls collard or other greens
1-2 shakes garlic powder (or 1-2 cloves fresh garlic) (optional)
Liquid Smoke (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Place parsnips and potatoes in a large pot, cover with lightly salted water. Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer. Cook until just tender, about 10-15 minutes.

While root veggies are cooking, heat olive oil in another pot. Sauté onions until golden. Add collards with a little bit of water, just enough to coat the bottom. Sauté until collards are dark green and have cooked down, tossing in some garlic powder and a dash of liquid smoke.

Drain parsnips and potatoes in a colander (you can save the water to thicken soups). Return to the pot, place over high heat until excess moisture evaporates (~1 minute). Add butter to the root veggies. Use potato masher to make smooth mixture. Continue mashing while adding milk. Stir in greens. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

new on the blogroll

Eurobabble: Our friend Annie documents her semester in Berlin. Jacob looks on in vicarious glee.

Erin's Easy Eats: My high school classmate Erin draws inspiration from The Pioneer Woman to come up with simple, tasty dishes for her and her husband.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

nice white lady hits the small screen

As promised, here's the link to tonight's news segment on the DC-area CBS station:

Eco-Fashion Folks Ask 'What's In Your Underwear?'

It's a local news story, so there's not much substance, but if you really want to know more about sustainable fashion, head over to Nice White Lady for the lowdown.


food raving on the internets

Not to turn this into or anything, but thanks to my friend Carla in San Francisco, I've discovered Yelp, a user-powered review website for restaurants, stores and services. Apparently Yelp is a big thing in SF (where all good internet trends are born), but it's got a decent following here in DC too.

I've added their tacky badge to our blog (over on the sidebar; scroll down), at least until Jacob, with his disdain for animated website doohickeys, comes home and brings this madness to a stop.

Do you love food? Do you enjoy giving people the impression that you can afford to eat at restaurants? Be my friend on Yelp!

P.S. Guess what! My mom was on the 5 o'clock news tonight, and it was not because she did anything illegal. Stay tuned for a link...


Monday, January 14, 2008

news from the land of the non-flu

I have been sick for the last week, and according to my doctor, it looked like the flu and walked like the flu but was not the flu. I barely ate anything all week and pretty much stayed in bed with a fever. When I could eat, it was the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast). It was mostly Not Fun.

I had lots of time to read Wikipedia, catch up on the blogs and do a lot of napping. I also spent some time contemplating why many intelligent grown people cannot use proper punctuation to distinguish between contractions and possessives ("you're" vs. "your", "it's" vs. "its") or between plurals and possessives ("cats" vs. "cat's"). This first started off as indignant and self-righteous, but quickly progressed beyond the judgmental to the illness-induced philosophical. Maybe it's unnatural. Maybe there's just something wrong with me! You can take the girl out of the egghead linguistics department...

Well, it only took a week, but it looks like I survived the non-flu. I'm mostly better, apart from some lingering weirdness in the kishkes and an occasional coughing fit.

Yesterday I even ate three regular meals, including pizza and spicy food. I even had the energy to cook dinner last night (trying to make up for last week, when Jacob would arrive home at 7 PM and I'd have to say, "Sorry I didn't get dinner started; I had to open a bottle of juice earlier today and then I had to go lie down. No, I'm not hungry"). We had hot and sour sweet potato curry, brown rice and baby collards (local potatoes + greens!). No issues except it was probably too soon for me to be drinking a entire glass of milk. So far, so good.

An inadvertent side-effect of the non-flu was that I had to stop drinking coffee. I had been nursing a small but unmistakable addiction--just one cup a day, but woe betide me if I didn't have that one cup. When I got sick, I lost my appetite for everything, including coffee, and the withdrawal symptoms were unnoticeable amidst the general malaise. Today is the first day I would have even considered coffee, but when I got up I made myself some nice darjeeling tea instead. I don't really even miss it. Yet.

Another side note: I was on a quest for organic, HFCS-free Saltine-like crackers once I started feeling a little better. I was happy to find Suzie's 100% Organic Crackers at our local co-op, but dismayed once I opened the package to find twelve individually-wrapped servings. Why? Why??? If I want a portable individual serving of crackers, I can put eight crackers in a reusable container myself. Moreover, this is not a magical power that only I possess. Maybe they're concerned with the crackers going stale? In that case, there's got to be a better way.

In other news, we ventured out to the farmers' market in the cold yesterday, and then to the library to continue our mission of building a fort out of gardening books. I mean, checking out gardening books, ostensibly to somehow apply the information inside them to our yard.

This will be our first spring here, and we're trying not to bite off more than we can chew. It's not like we are going to be able to grow everything we like to eat. We sat down and made "Top 5" wish lists of vegetables, and figured out how many of each thing we'll be able to maintain. But we know it'll be mostly trial-and-error. Luckily, we are also going halvesies with my parents on a CSA share from Avian Mead Organics this season, so between that, the garden and the farmers' market, we should be able to have all the produce we need.

In other other news, I am supposed to be catching up on work now that I'm feeling better, so naturally my computer speakers won't turn on (part of what I do involves listening to interview audio). It's always something.


Thursday, January 3, 2008

it's official now...

...which means this is the last time y'all're gonna have to hear about it, but here goes: today was swearing in, so now I really and truly am a lawyer. whatever shall I do with all my newly bestowed power? I guess just the same sort of government counsel-ing I'd been doing anyway, just without the obligatory disclaimers about direct supervision by a licensed member of the Maryland bar &c. &c. (wink, nudge), as if I wouldn't be under direct supervision at this fledgling stage anyway.

to the Maryland State Board of Law Examiners, what I would like to know is this: why do you make us get up at butt o'clock and drive to Annapolis on a frigid day for just a few minutes of recitation and signature? just because some of us couldn't be bothered to attend the all-afternoon pomp-and-circumstance affair full of all the same pseudo-graduation speeches we've heard already (noble profession, blah blah, fight for rights, blah blah, ethics, blah blah, here we go gathering nuts and may)? I guess it's a small price to pay, considering I was much happier skipping all that and going to khymi's christmas musical down in charlottesville.

and hey, some of us were given a whole day of administrative leave for the swearing-in, so I guess I shouldn't complain. anyway, this was the scene at 10:15am today:


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

the late aughties?

I had some time to think about the last year, driving home today from bringing Khymi to meet her mom. The holidays are over and she'll be there for another month or so. I looked around and really noticed the bare trees and brown grass, and thought about where I began 2007. My friend and bandmate Jim died a year ago, and sometimes I feel like it still hasn't really hit us--I look around the room at a rehearsal, and even though we're a big group, I think, is this it? It was a strange way to begin the year. What a year it was.

In 2007, I finished my AmeriCorps year, went back to college, started an internship, moved out of Baltimore, got married and officially became a stepmom. Jacob started and finished a spring internship, found a job, graduated from law school, moved in with me, studied for the bar exam, moved here, took the bar, got married, started a new job and passed the bar.

This might sound weird, but I'm hoping for an uneventful 2008.

Every year for at least the past five years, I've experienced a move, a change in relationship status, a change in occupation, or some combination of the three. Sometimes there were all three, sometimes there were multiple occurrences within a year. Not that I didn't enjoy my early twenties, but I'm finally looking forward to a year in which not one of those things is likely to happen.

Less upheaval. More stability. More baking, more movie nights, more music. More friends, more family, more working, more reading. More small-scale travel, more gardening, more neighborhood bike tourism. More walks for no reason. More celebrating friends' weddings and new babies (none for me, thanks--I'm good on life changes for now).

I guess 2008 might not be so uneventful after all, but with any luck, it'll be the right kind of uneventful. Oh, and there's going to be that whole election business. But that's part of everyone's life, not just mine. I hope we handle it well.

Happy 2008 to you and yours. I hope it's a good one for you.