Friday, April 29, 2011

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Me: "I wonder if traffic will be light tomorrow, since so many people are skipping out to watch the Royal Wedding".
Chris: "Hmm. You know, tomorrow would be a really good day to invade England. I hope the Pentagon knows about this."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Clairebear at 4

How sweet are her little blond curls in the breeze?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bubbles and chalk

Jackson Pollock's pants were never so dirty.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad

This was inspired by a salad made by my friend Donna’s mom, Miss Felicia.  I’m not sure if the ratios are quite right, but when I asked dear Miss Felicia for her recipe it was given in more “a little of this, a little of that” type measurements rather than precise quantities. But isn’t that how all the best picnic recipes go?

This was the best I could recreate, based on what I remembered of her directions (and after a quick email to Donna!) and it really did turn out pretty well.  It's a great addition to the summer salad line-up. It’s mayo-less, so it can set out a bit, and it can be thrown together quickly ahead of time. 

Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad
Serves 8 

  • 1 head of broccoli, florets only, cut in to bite size pieces
  • 1 head of cauliflower, florets only, cut in to bite size pieces
  • ¼ onion, finely diced (thin red onion slices would have been nice, but our grocery store was inexplicably out of reds)
  • ½ pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • ½ can black olives, sliced.
  • 1 packet dry ranch dressing mix
  • ½ cup mild vinegar (I used rice wine)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Adobo salt (Probably not in Miss Felicia's recipe, but have you tried this yet? It's like magic flavor dust. Find it in the international aisle or even in the regular spice section.)

  1. Combine veggies in a large bowl. Whisk together dressing, oil and vinegar in seperate and then toss with vegetables.
  2. Season to taste with adobo salt. Refrigerate for an hour or two prior to serving.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Got cake?

Just some quick snaps of the Peanut at his cousins' (Second cousins? Once removed? Or something?) birthday party. I have a ton of pics to look through, but in all of them he was having a blast. He ate this entire adult-sized slice of cake at one time. All of the other kids would have a bite, play with the icing, run around. He was dedicated to consuming his piece and could not be distracted - not even by the moon bounce or a strange dog. That's my boy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday bliss: bubble bath!

And wine, of course. And a brand spanking new magazine. I'm making the best of a dreary Friday night (Chris is working late) and giving the internet a teeny tiny glimpse of my Williamsburg blue tub. Hence, my general preference for black and white for the Peanut's bath pics.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Street flare

I know - another iPhone pic. But I like the sunflare and I hope this serves as a reminder to go back with my real camera. There's a whole block of these fun, mirrored sculptures on New York Avenue.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Squeaky clean

My post-bath baby, in black and white.
I tell you, black and white conversions do wonders for my hideous bathroom. Photoshop is way cheaper than renovations.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chocolate chip banana bread

I have a soft spot for Starbucks pastries. Okay, who am I kidding? I have a soft spot for most pastries. And that causes a lot of soft spots on my body. But anyway, I really do love their chocolate chip banana bread and have had it on my mind recently.  Somehow, despite buying bananas every single week, we rarely have a few nice ripe ones on hand. This is because Chris is what I call a "banana martyr". No matter how many times I tell him not to worry about the browned ones - I'll just freeze them and bake with them later - he makes a point of clearing out the fruit bowl for his lunch whenever he sees them. He thinks he's doing me a favor, falling on the rotting fruit grenade, but he isn't. Well, I finally convinced him to let a few escape and go past their prime.

Forgive the photo - if you can't tell by the melty, oozing chocolate, this was fresh out of the oven and I was a little over-eager to put my camera down and finish my slice.

Chocolate chip banana bread
Adapted from Epicurious


  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 good sized bananas)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and prepare a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Combine the first five ingredients in a bowl and set aside*. 
  3. Beat butter in mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar until well combined and creamy, then beat in eggs one at a time. Add banana, lemon juice and vanilla. 
  4. Pour mixture in to loaf pan. Bake for about an hour, until top is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. 
*The original recipe called for separating the chips and layering them in the middle of the batter. I didn't find that necessary. The chips dropped to the bottom a bit, but it didn't bother me. 

Monday, April 18, 2011


Where did our weekend go? Why, it was spent with these fine people.
Drinking sippies in the sun.

Some of us had wine.

Filming Saw 13 Getting creeped out in Grandpa's cellar
Wondering if it was safe to eat canned green beans half our age.

Showing off fancy sunglasses.
Laughing at silly jokes.

And finding each others' belly buttons.
 All in all, a very productive weekend. Although, I think I'd rather resort to cannibalism than eating anything off the shelf in that cellar.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Roasted carrots with rosemary

Oohhh, look at me. Two recipes in a row! Please don't get too excited -- they're only vegetables. The easiest dinner party-quality vegetables I know.

Roasted carrots with rosemary
Serves 4

  • 8 carrots, peeled and sliced on a bias, about 1/4-1/2 inch thick
  • Leaves from 1-2 springs of rosemary
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

  1. Heat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil. Combine carrots and rosemary with a good glug or two of olive oil and season well with salt and pepper
  2. Roast for about 15-20 minutes until just soft, stirring once or twice along the way.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Zucchini with lemon and basil

Let's skip spring and go straight to summer, shall we? When I come home from the farmer's market with armloads of zucchini and tomatoes and corn and promptly run out of ideas to cook them. MOM's was displaying some perfect little zucchini specimens the other day, so I decided to get a jump start. My cousin Kelly introduced me to the first half of this recipe - simply grating the squash straight in to the pan with butter and garlic. The lemon and basil just add an extra summery touch. Freshly grated parmesan or crumbled feta would have been a perfect topping (full disclosure: this light and healthy side accompanied a super cheesy pasta, so we needed no additional fromage that night). This dish gets a little wet, so if you wanted to avoid extra zucchini juice, you could grate it ahead of time and wringe it out or press with a paper towel. I'm not that picky, though.

And I swear, this introduction is way too long for such a simple recipe!

Zucchini with lemon and basil
Serves 2

  • 1/2 - 1 tbs butter
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • a good handful (about 1/4-1/3 c.) basil leaves, chopped or chiffonade
  • zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat butter in skillet over medium heat. When melted, add garlic. Just as the garlic starts to get really fragrant, grate zucchini in to pan. 
  2. When zucchini is cooked through and slightly translucent, turn off heat and add basil, lemon zest and juice. Season well with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Photoshop fixes and flubs

Like many people, I use Photoshop to edit most of my images. I do very minimal processing - some cropping, some sharpening, maybe a little play with the adjustment levels or an action or two. It's not because my photos are so amazing out of camera, it's because Photoshop is crazy powerful and overwhelming. I've been using it for quite awhile, but I've barely scratched the surface in learning what it can really do.

Last night, I decided to play a bit with cloning and filling. This picture of the Peanut isn't all that stellar, but the cars in the background posed a nice challenge and the patch of grass at the right seemed like it would make good filler:

So, I spent some time playing with various Photoshop tools and think I figured it out.  Here is a screen shot of the process about three-quarters of the way through. I wish I'd thought to do one half way - it was a hot mess at one point!

First, I used the clone stamp to remove the car in the top right. Then I copied and pasted (is that a word?) the right side of grass and sidewalk along the left edge of Peanut's face. I cleaned that up by erasing the overlap (Carefully, carefully! I feel like a perfectly normal person, but when I start to do this detail work, my hands start tweaking out like a recovering meth addict). I then pasted (paste? pastid? pastifyied?) a second patch of grass/sidewalk to the far left. It seems like with every big move in Photoshop, you have to do an equal amount of clean-up, so thanks to some good advice on my favorite photo board, I used the clone tool as a big fat soft brush on 50% opacity to erase the line left from copying and pasting. Oh yeah, and then I cloned in the bottom left concrete.

Whew! After all that I decided to play with some black and white actions. Before saving the final cloning. Bad move. Real bad move. By the time I decided I didn't really care for the b&w, I was too far in my Photoshop history to go back to color. That crash you heard was my fist through the monitor.

Anyway, here is the end result! I'm proud of the cloning, not so much of the black and white conversion. Although I am kind of jealous of his (Photoshoped) porcelain skin. This is what I would look like if I never met my warm, sultry lover - The Beach.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Playground bully

We were playing in the front yard this evening after dinner. All was going well until the Peanut spotted something he did not approve of:

In case you can't tell, the word "mine" has recently entered his vocabulary. Don't you love that stare down  in the first photo?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday snaps

Just a few photos from our trail walk today.

Um, excuse me? I thought you said I was getting a pony?

Does this make it go faster?

A chihuahua and his human.

Writhing in ecstasy (and a lot of mud) on a creek bank.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Inadvertently sustainable Saturday

This afternoon we headed out to try one of the few Maryland wineries we haven't visited - Black Ankle (the Crumbling Rock is lovely). Our wine tasting was followed by dinner at Againn Tavern in Rockville, where Colin met his new favorite food and proceeded to get ketchup-wasted. Also, their scallops are like giant pats of butter (and I mean that in a good way).

 It honestly wasn't until we were on our way home that I realized how hippie granola tree-hugger our jaunt had been. Black Ankle is known for their sustainable practices (their tasting room is insulated with straw and has a living roof) and Againn prides themselves on using all locally sourced ingredients. So, that was a happy accident, since I am a lazy, passive environmentalist. Our wine and our dinner probably cost twice what their conventional alternatives would have but at least we saved all that gas money by driving there in our hybrid ;)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday bliss: A big stack of new-to-me books

A great big pile of stories to be told. Well, the bottom two are for Chris and a few others in the stack are for the Peanut, but I finally restocked my Metro-reading supply at the Stone Ridge Academy Book Sale today. And with this federal shutdown looming, I might even get a jump on some of them.

I know I could hop on the e-reader train, but despite being a librarian I am really very hard on books. They get tossed in my work bag with empty coffee mugs. They get dropped in sand at the beach. The fall in the bathtub. In fact, I try not to borrow many books, even from the library (gasp!) because I abuse them so. And that is my dirty little secret. I hope I don't get my ALA membership revoked.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Floral confusion

I do not have a green thumb. None of the flowers I've featured here have been personally grown by me. This fact is not particularly remarkable unless you know that I come from a family of landscapers and horticulturalists. Many, many people in my family make their livings by keeping plants alive.  I am clearly not one of them.

My thumb isn't quite brown - maybe closer to yellow.  Chartreuse? The color of wilting African violet leaves (not that I have one of those on my window sill or anything . . .).  However, there is one plant that I can't seem to kill off. It started as a tiny little rose poinsettia I bought at Home Depot a good three (maybe four?) years ago. Now it is a serious houseplant. I have no idea how that happened. I've managed to keep the poor thing alive, but living in my house has left it in quite a confused state. Over the years, it has gone from turning red right around Christmas to turning red anytime it damn well pleases. With such a chilly spring, the pop of color has been quite welcome, even if it is a distant reminder of the winter holidays.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Two birds with one stone

Me: "I feel like we are constantly grocery shopping and constantly doing laundry, and yet there is never anything to eat or anything to wear."

Chris: "We should just start buying edible underwear."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pork Chops with Country Gravy

I found this recipe in an issue of Cooking Light that I took from the jury room of my county courthouse. In case you were wondering - I was excused. Which is probably a good thing since people that steal stuff from courthouses don't usually have the best moral compass. But I'm so glad I showed up to perform my civic duty that day. I got a whopping $8 and one of my favorite weeknight meals. This was the recipe that helped me get over my gravy fear, fortunately for everyone but my thighs (who can just shut up about it, already).

Pork Chops with Country Gravy
Adapted from Cooking Light
Serves 4

  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp. dried marjoram
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. dried sage
  • 4 boneless loin pork chops
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2 cups milk

  1. Combine flour and spices. Season pork with salt and pepper and then dredge through flour mixture. Set aside remaining flour for gravy.
  2. Melt butter in skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add pork chops. Brown well on each side, then lower heat and continue cooking until cooked through. When done, remove to plate. Keep skillet on medium heat.
  3. Combine leftover flour mixture with milk in a bowl. Search frantically around your kitchen for a whisk. Expand search to living room and find whisk in toy box. Wash very, very thoroughly.  Actually, you can probably skip that part if you don't have a toddler obsessed with kitchen utensils. 
  4. Use newly sterilized whisk to stir milk/flour slurry in to hot pan. Bring to a simmer, whisking constantly.  Season with salt and pepper (lots of fresh cracked pepper). Cook for about two minutes, until very thick. Pour over pork chops and mashed potatoes.

Monday, April 4, 2011

These are, in fact, cherry blossoms

Except for when they're tulips. Or a lady walking seven (7!!) dogs. On Saturday, I missed a chance to shoot the cherry blossoms with some photography friends because of the wacky weather we had. Of course, today was absolutely gorgeous so I headed out for a lunchtime walk.

I would have loved to have those girls with me though - I got some nice photos, but I think a lot came out rather cliche and touristy. I could have used some tips or inspiration. However the weather was amazing and, while slightly crowded, there were probably far fewer people jamming the sidewalks then there would have been over the weekend.

(Look! Even the port-o-potties are pretty!)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Skillet Chicken Parmesan

This was a fairly simple recipe as far as America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Country recipes go, and yet I still thought it was overly complicated. The sauce did turn out surprisingly well and I might follow the basic idea for that the next time I make chicken parm, but for the chicken itself I'll stick with my tried and true method, Progresso bread crumbs and all. I think the biggest thing I learned from this dish is that smoked mozzarella is amazing stuff and should be used at every available opportunity. I subbed that and fontina for the mozzarella and provolone in the original recipe.

Skillet Chicken Parmesan
Adapted from Cook's Country
Serves 4-6

*Note: this requires a very large skillet with tightly fitting lid.


For the bread crumbs:
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 tbs olive oil 
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan
  • 1/8 cup chopped fresh basil
For the sauce:
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28 oz canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup parmesan
  • 1/8 cup chopped fresh basil
For the chicken:
  • 3 tbs vegetable oil
  • 4 chicken breast halves (about 1.5 lbs), each sliced in half horizontally
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Salt and pepper
To finish:
  • 3/4 cup grated smoked mozzarella
  • 3/4 cup grated fontina cheese
  • 3/4 cup fresh grated parmesan
  1. Toast the bread crumbs in a skillet over medium high heat, stirring constantly. About five minutes. When golden brown, toss with oil, cheese and basil. Set aside.
  2. Combine sauce ingredients in bowl and set aside. 
  3. Heat vegetable oil over medium high heat in large skillet. Salt and pepper chicken and dredge in flour. Brown four pieces at a time (so as not to crowd skillet) about 2-3 minutes each side. Remove to plate.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and add tomato sauce, scraping bottom of the skillet. Add chicken back in, including any juices that may have accumulated, nestling in to sauce. Top each piece with handful of mozzarella/fontina/parm.
  5. Cover skillet and cook about five minutes more until cheese fully melts. Plate each piece of chicken with hefty dose of sauce and top with handful of breadcrumbs. Serve with pasta.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Portrait of paternal patience

Lately, the Peanut has been a beast when he wakes up from his naps. No matter how short or how long, getting him out of his crib has been like wrestling an angry bear who's just woken up from hibernation. Except the bear would probably take the snacks and milk proffered to him and not throw them across the room. Today, Chris tried taming the savage beast with a series of techniques, including rocking in the rocking chair, a visit outside and finally cuddles on the couch. I'm hoping this is a phase, because I'm starting to wonder if two hours of peace (for me) and rest (for Peanut) is worth the resulting twenty minutes of torment (for the entire house).

How dare you. (Although I guess we should probably get used to this look, since it will be inevitable in the teen years.)

Settling down.

Now someone else needs a nap.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday bliss: Hill Country Barbecue

Today a few coworkers and I braved the ridiculous lines to try then new Hill Country Barbecue in Penn Quarter. The food was amazing, but everything else about the experience was crowded, uncoordinated and slow.

Not a whole lot made it home to be photographed - but this is cornbread with a really interesting ancho honey butter. Not pictured: out of this world mac and cheese, a rib the size of my forearm and the best smoked chicken I've probably ever had (no offense, Dad). I just hope they get the rest of their act together so that we can better enjoy our meal next time. Now I've got a hankering for some brisket.