Sunday, June 7, 2015

CSA: Month One

This spring I was able to talk Jon into subscribing to a local CSA. A CSA, which stands for community supported agriculture, is basically like belonging to a "vegetable of the week" club. It is also like a box of chocolates...(all together now) you never know what you're going to get. Each week we receive a random bag of produce from a local farm. Everything is extremely fresh, extremely seasonal, and extremely local. Plus, it is good for the farmers because they have a guaranteed buyer for whatever they are growing and harvesting.

So far, we've been up to the challenge. We've received plenty of things we've never tried before, but thanks to Google and the weekly newsletter we receive with recipes, we've managed to figure out what to do with all this stuff. In case you're also feeling adventurous, you can find links and recipes from our first month below:

Radishes (which the Internet really only considers a garnish)
Grilled Steak with Cilantro Sauce

Bok Choy
Sauteed Bok Choy

Sunflower Sprouts
Sunflower Sprout Spread

Panfried Kale
Kale Puttanesca

Green Garlic
Asparagus and Green Garlic Soup

Sunflower Oregano Pesto
  • 2 cups mixed herbs (winter savory, chives, oregano, tarragon, thyme)
  • 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds (soaked or roasted if preferred)
  • 1 large clove of garlic, peeled (2 small)
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil + 1 -2 tsp to cover the top when jarred
  • Pinch of salt
Recipe from Food Matters!

Swiss Chard

Collard Greens
Low(er) Fat Collard Greens

As you can see, spring is prime growing time for greens, and lots of them.

We've missed a couple of weeks by being out of town, but I'm pretty proud of all the new things we've tried. Let the culinary adventure continue!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Elsa is TWO!

If Elsa's first year was all about surviving, then her second was about settling in.

We've spent the past twelve months settling into our roles as mother, father, and human being. While there have certainly been a lot of frustrating moments, there have been far more enjoyable ones. Please remind me that I said this when Elsa is in the midst of a terrible two-year-old tantrum, but she is so much fun right now.

What she has learned so far is astonishing and often hilarious (but probably only to us). Many a night, Jon and I have lain awake in bed recounting one of Elsa's ridiculous antics. She is talking quite a bit, and just as I had hoped, this new skill has increased her personality exponentially. I love being able to interact with her in this way.

In addition to talking, this year has brought a much more mobile toddler. Elsa is actually quite fast, which is great...except when she wants to run around an airport, for example. She's also mastered jumping and is getting pretty good at somersaults. Oh, and she's a dancing fool.

We've had a pretty regular routine this year, which has been good for everyone. In addition to attending Kindermusik class and a weekly playgroup, Elsa spent two days a week at Parents Day Out while I taught some classes at the community college. She loved it! Even though "school" has been out for a couple of weeks, she continues to talk about her teachers and most nights will say during prayer time, "Thank you Elsa all the friends" (we'll work on the proper syntax later).

Elsa also seemed to understand the birthday concept this year. Every time she sees a candle, she connects it to birthdays, and it's a pretty common occurrence at our house to randomly sing "Happy Birthday" to any number of people (and sometimes inanimate objects). I love birthdays, so I certainly encourage this. When I asked Elsa what she would like for her birthday, she was quick to say that she wanted a birthday cake--chocolate--and a birthday hat. Done and done.

We also had a birthday party at the house with some of her friends (we got rained out at the park), which was a blast...even if it was a little overwhelming with a bunch of two(ish)-year-olds running around. My mom and little brother were able to come down for the festivities, too, which made it extra-special.

On Elsa's actual birthday, Jon made us all a big breakfast of his specialty--biscuits and gravy--before going to church. Afterward, we were able to Skype/FaceTime with family in both Kansas City and Seattle, all of whom spoiled our darling daughter with way too many (awesome) gifts. After a much-needed nap, we had the infamous sheep photo shoot.

The sheep has shrunk!
To cap off the birthday celebration, we visited the new Bass Pro Shop at the Memphis Pyramid before going out for dinner. Not too shabby for a second birthday. I think--hope--Elsa enjoyed it.

We're excited for what the next year will hold...only about 11 more months before we celebrate all over again!

Shiny Dinah

"Here is a shiny choo-choo train. Shiny Dinah is her name.

Choo-choo! Choo-choo!
Dinah, Dinah, Dinah, Dinah.
Shoo! Shoo! Shoo! Shoo!
Shine-a, shine-a, shine-a."

It should not surprise you at all to know that by this point in our parenting journey, Jon and I have become quite the experts on (or critics of) children's literature. (In fact, Jon has been known to hide books from Elsa that he just doesn't want to read any more.) So, when it came time to prepare for our train trip to Chicago, it was a natural step to tie it to one of Elsa's books, Shiny Dinah.

As implied by the excerpt above, Shiny Dinah is a story about a shiny passenger train...that happens to feature a lot of onomatopoeia. Fortunately, Elsa is a fan of this story, so it was easy to sneak it into the rotation leading up to the trip and provided a way to talk up our adventure. And it worked. Elsa was excited and did really well on her first overnight train trip.

Jon and I have made this trip a couple of times before to visit friends who had been living in South Bend, Indiana. The schedule is great for efficiency: board the train in Memphis at night, go to sleep, wake up in Chicago, and do the whole thing in reverse on the return trip. Typically, we would get a roomette with twin bunk beds, although once we had to sit in the coach seats. However, since this was Elsa's first Amtrak trip in general--overnight specifically--we opted to get a family room, which consists of one double bed with a twin bunk above and two child-size beds that could fold down from the side if needed. Quite spacious, really.

Plenty of room to take our obligatory travel auto-photo

Elsa and I shared the bigger bottom bunk while Jon slept above us. This arrangement was fair, considering I've been told that when I was much younger, I used to move around a lot when I slept (sorry to anyone I shared a bed with when I was a kid). Evidently, Elsa inherited this trait from me. She flopped around quite a bit. Multiple times, I had to grab her and pull her down from a standing position. She definitely had the hair to show for crazy night, but all in all she slept well (better than Jon or me).

The adventure continued once we arrived in Chicago. Our friends (and point of the trip) met us at the train station, and the girls headed to the theater for Fancy Nancy. It was Elsa's first show, and she was mesmerized.

                                          By "mesmerized," I also mean "tired"

After enjoying some Chicago-style deep-dish pizza for lunch, we went to the Kids & Kites festival. It was a beautiful spring day, the kind that makes one feel glad to be alive. The festival lived up to its title as the park was full of kids and kites.

A great day to be alive
As an added bonus, I got to see another friend from college, whom I haven't seen in years. Our group consisted of just about everyone I know who lives in Chicago, which was splendid.

We loaded up some tired kiddos (and tired parents) and returned to our friends' house in Naperville to begin the mad dash toward bedtime. Once the kids were tucked in, we had some lovely dinner/wine/catching up time.

Sunday morning was fairly leisurely, so the kids had time to play outside and also get fancy again while we were making breakfast.

Anyone can be fancy
We went to church and lunch, and since our hosts were gracious enough to insist that they drive us to the train station rather than letting us take an early commuter train, I even had to time to attend the Dailey Method class my friend teaches. (For those unacquainted with the Dailey Method--like I was--it is sort of a cross between ballet, pilates, and yoga and features many small movements to stretch and tone the body.) She is a great instructor...I was definitely sore for several days afterward.

And then it was time to get back on the train. Elsa was excited to ride "Shiny Dinah" one more time.

Tray tables do NOT need to be returned to their upright positions
Unfortunately, there were no family rooms available for this leg of the trip, so we had to squeeze into a roomette. We were all so tired from our adventure, though, it didn't really matter that our accommodations were a bit smaller. We had a nice dinner with some interesting folks (meals are included for sleeper car passengers), and then it was time for bed.

Story time on the train
All too soon--literally; the train arrived at 5:30am, ahead of schedule--our train adventure came to a close. Thanks, Shiny Dinah (and Amtrak), for a great trip!