Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jasper's Quilt

When my mom was in town, she helped me finish the quilt I started for Jasper. I fell in love with the fabric from Les Indiennes, traditional hand-blocked fabrics using organic fabric and vegetable dye, after spotting it in a Domino magazine from a while back. It's similar to John Robshaw fabric, which apparently is all the rage, but I like the prints at Les Indiennes better. Unfortunately, it's priced way out of my range because of how much labor goes into making each bolt of fabric (fabric as art). A month before Jasper's birth, I had a rare pregnant-moment epiphany and ordered several swatch books from them and pieced them together into a simple patch work quilt top. Blythe sent me the batting from an Anthropologie quilt she cut down to a smaller size with a note that read: "now you have no more excuses!" although I somehow managed to put it off another few months. It took me forever to settle on a backing fabric but Mom helped me decide on a plain navy flannel for softness. We spent an afternoon basting the three layers together and then sewing it, a mother-daughter activity we haven't done together in 15 years. I'm pleased with the finished product and I can safely say that little Jasper is too.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Blog Land

Blogging is a strange thing. On the one hand, I've had 2 emails in one day from far-flung friends who told me they love getting a glimpse of what our life looks like and what I'm thinking about, which made me feel like the blog is fulfilling its purpose. However, what I don't want it to be is what I have been critical of in other blogs - a "hey, look at me! look how amazing I am" (not that I even think that of myself), or a place to seek validation from friends and strangers that my life is worth living, or an awkward, if not embarrassing baring of the soul to the whole wide world (or anyone who might stumble on the site).

This is not my journal. That thing is sadly in need of a good dusting and some attention of its own, but when it gets that, it will be for me and me alone. I see this as a totally different annal for our family life and to some extent, me; I like having a place to compile photos with a description of a meal or a family day, or a link to something that caught my attention so that it's not forgotten or misplaced among all the days and events to come. But I feel uneasy about this kind of medium being public because it's so easy to give off the impression that "life is but a dream" and I never have days of despair and frustration. Some would see the answer in blogging equally about the crappy days, but quite honestly, that's too personal a thing for me to put out there in any kind of medium except a glass of wine with some girlfriends, or said dusty journal.

The blogs I enjoy the most are blogs like this one. Anyone who knows Blythe will tell you what an amazing girl she is, but she never gives off the impression that she needs people telling her that. She is able to blog about her interests and likes without the least sense of pretension or superiority and since I live 2,000 miles away from her, I love wandering over to her site every few days to see what's going on in the dear girl's head. Her tagline reads "life is worth writing about" which isn't mutually exclusive- everyone's life is valuable and worth celebrating and this is how I hope my friends and family see La Bon Vie. Until I come to terms with this little blog o' mine, though, I guess I'm writing this to salve my own conflicted conscience.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mom's Potatoes

My Mom flew in from Virginia to spend a week with us and to meet baby Jasper. I tried to convince her to pack everything in a carry on to avoid extra charges from the airline, but she declined, saying she had too much stuff to bring. Upon arriving at our home, it turned out that the reason for the checked bag was a considerable stash of vegetables from her garden. I love that the night before she flew out, part of her packing ritual included running out to one of her beautiful raised beds and digging up about 10 lbs. of her gorgeous potatoes and picking close to 2 lbs. of yellow and green waxy beans. Talk about a bountiful harvest!

I felt honored to be charged with cooking such lovely vegetables (although Sam was quick to remind me that potatoes are actually tubers. Sorry for the lapse.) and a little anxious to do them justice. I wanted to do something that would bring out the flavor of both and not hide the amazing flavor of such freshness. Fortunately for the potatoes, Bryan Kennedy came to mind. Bryan is a friend of ours from Seattle and he and his wife Freya enjoy good food as much as we do. Freya and I, when not talking about God and family, have been known to have long phone conversations detailing out meals that we have had or plan to make, as well as generous swapping of recipes. I remembered her telling me about Bryan's invention of Roasted Potatoes with Bacon, Cherry Tomatoes & Gruyere and started salivating just thinking about it. The day before, I prepped 2 lbs. of chicken legs by rubbing them with a mix of salt, cracked pepper and cayenne, refrigerating them for a few hours before dumping in a gallon of buttermilk for them to swim in overnight. The menu was beginning to take shape in my mind's eye:
A little more sophisticated approach to a Southern staple of fried chicken, green beans, potatoes and lemonade. What could be more appropriate, especially for two women with enough Southern blood to insure membership in The Daughters of the Confederacy if we so chose (God Bless the Fain Family and General Lee and May the South Rise Again). I called Freya and traded her my sweet tart with honey sweetened creme fraiche & fresh raspberries for Bryan's potatoes, got to work breading the chicken and got the boys snapping the beans and juicing lemons for lemonade. It all came together like a finely trained orchestra, if I do say so myself (oh dear, I sound like Mrs. Elton from Emma...)
When the potatoes were reaching the end of their tenure in the oven, I blanched the green beans, sauteed a few cloves of garlic in olive oil, added the green beans for a few minutes to heat them through and added a handful of good feta.

The result was a delectable, finger-licking, good-to-the-last-bite meal that was as fun to eat as it was to prepare.

We stuffed ourselves silly and had to go for a walk before diving into the Lilikoi cheesecake Sam & I made using passion fruit butter my mom had brought us from her place in Hawaii.

Could someone please explain why it's taking me so long to lose the extra baby weight?

If you've got a stash of potatoes that need to be eaten up, I highly recommend the following scrumptious method of consuming them:

Bryan Kennedy's Roasted Potatoes:
5 lbs. of Yukon Gold potatoes washed and cut into bite size pieces
5 oz. bacon
Pint of cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup grated gruyere

On a rimmed baking sheet, pour a few glugs of olive oil on pan. Throw on potato pieces and stir; salt and grind pepper generously. Place in preheated 425 degree oven and set timer for 10 minutes. Chop up about 5 oz. good bacon (I used a local pepper thick sliced bacon that was delish) and sprinkle over potatoes when timer goes off. Set timer for another 10 minutes. Wash and dry a pint of cherry tomatoes. Throw them in, give the whole thing a good stir and set timer for another 10 minutes. Grate about 1/2 cup of gruyere and sprinkle over the mixture and bake until melted and starting to bubble. By this time, many of the tomatoes will have popped, oozing their juices over the bacon and potatoes. If not, bake for another 10 minutes or so.

The Family That Eats Together

I don't go out very often these days. For one thing, going out with four boys is more than just a little bit of work, timing everything around naps and meals. For another thing, since the proliferation of legos in our house, there doesn't seem to be the need or desire to do anything but play legos. However, I had the opportunity to hit up a huge sale at bop in Madison and Mom was willing to watch the kids. It turned out to be a total waste of time, not that I didn't find some incredible deals, but after asking myself if I really needed any of said finds and realizing I didn't, I left (after waiting in line for 2 hours) and ended up with nothing but a parking ticket. This, of course, was very upsetting. Maybe I'm exaggerating, but we have paid the city of Madison at least $1,000 in parking tickets since we moved here 4 1/2 years ago. I think they recognize my car, think to themselves, "suckah" and hang around waiting for my meter to expire, knowing I won't make it out in time. Unnecessary expenses like parking tickets really upset me so suffice it to say I was in a bit of a foul mood the rest of the day, that is until dinner. The day before mom arrived, our chef friend Joel and his wife and kids came over for dinner, bringing some incredible local highland beef for sliders. Mom made the leftover meat from Fountain Prairie Farms into burgers, we had local feta and 2 year white cheddar from Hook's Cheese with all the usual condiments.
Ryan made hand cut homemade french fries with sea salt from mom's potatoes as well as a pound of fried cheese curds.

The grill was still hot after dinner so I cut peaches in half, sprinkled them with sugar and melted butter and grilled them for about 5 minutes, cut side down. We filled the middle with fresh whipped cream for a perfect dessert after such a heavy dinner.
At dinner, Ryan added up the cost of a meal like that eating out and it was well over the $20 parking ticket, so I suddenly felt much better about that. But more than the money was the pleasure of us all working together to make dinner- Mom putting together the condiment plate while Ryan fried the potatoes and curds. I prepped the peaches while the boys set the table. Talking and laughing all the while and then sitting down to enjoy the fruits of our collaborative effort. I hope that when the boys are grown up, making and eating food together is one of their strongest memories.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Oh, Anna

Having been a Vogue subscriber for as long as I can remember and counting the arrival of the September Issue (always in August, of course) as an eagerly anticipated rite every year, I can't help but look forward to seeing this movie and getting a glimpse of the real Anna Wintour, whoever she is.