Saturday, June 22, 2013

The joys of summer

The last two months of school are always a little bit insane. Wrapping up curriculum, talking about changes for next year before you even know what next year holds, meetings upon meetings upon meetings, and of course the fact that you have to deal with 160 students that really want nothing more than to be on summer vacation- and trust me, so do YOU!

But then, it moves quickly and I find myself sitting here, first week of summer under my belt, relaxed and joyous that two months of free time is a head of me. Adam and I were pretty smart this year and planned very little for the first two weeks. So, we often find ourselves around 1pm sitting on the couch chatting (sometimes still in our PJ's) and thinking what the rest of the day may hold.

Turns out a lot of really wonderful things happen at our house when we are work. The chickens cluck around the homestead, Sandee does a lot of sleeping, each room feels different due to the amount of sunlight coming through the windows, and the slight change in wind is always noticeable due to the sounds of the live oaks rustling in yard. I'm not sure we will stay in Topanga Canyon forever, but it's these quiet days at home that makes me truly love where I live. Our little cabin, that often feels like rustic appalachia, is such a serene get away from the hectic city, "the valley", and the scene of LA.

Another great thing that happens when we are at home are the freshly made lunches that we throw together whenever we are hungry. Recently, my dad said to me that one of the greatest pleasures in life is eating lunch outside with a really good glass of white wine. Well, Dad- you are totally correct on that front. The veggies are plentiful, the salads are fresh, and not even the small yellow jacket buzzing around me can ruin a good summer lunch outside.

Today, in honor of the solstice and the amazing amount of basil we have in garden, I made some pesto. Fresh and layered in with a little bit of mint I think this is pretty much the best pesto on the block. It's vegan, fresh, and damn is it good on just about anything. Play around with the garlic as much as you like but I think two small cloves gives it all it needs.

Happy summer!

basil and mint pesto:
1 1/2 cup of fresh loosely packed basil leaves
1/2 cup of fresh loosely packed mint leaves
2 small garlic cloves or 1 large one
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup great tasting olive oil (the spanish kind from Trader Joe's is the best and really pretty cheap)

Combine fresh herbs and garlic in food processor and chop until small bits. Add pine nutes and pulse until blended. Slowly add a little olive oil at a time until smooth and more of a sauce like texture. If you like it more "saucy" use 1/2 cup olive oil.

Mix it into pasta or roasted veggies. Use as a pizza sauce or in a casserole. Tripple of recipe
and freeze for later!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Mother knows best

When I was a young adolescent I was pretty awkward. For those of you that knew me then, you know that "awkward" is an understatement, but whatever I was (big purple glasses, loud voice, crooked teeth and all) I was me, and my mom really loved me.

That being said, I was not a kid that was excited about any sort of exercise. I joined sport teams but suffered through the long conditioning runs we had to do for practice. Slightly plump and not in shape, I was far from fit during most of my teenage years. My mom on the other hand, was running 10Ks every month and finishing at the top of her age group- and, she had (and still has) the legs to prove it.

Man oh man, did she try to get me to love running. But, no matter the pep talks, the testimonials, and even my friends doing it, I still hated it. I hated how awful
I was at it and I HATED how amazing she was at it all the time. Blame it on the high school mom daughter relationship but I wasn't going to change my mind. I was stubborn.

It's probably not much of a surprise that now, 20 years later from when she first tried to show me how great it was, I am a runner. Today, I love running. I love that all you need to do it is a pair of shoes and a hair band. I love the pavement under my feet, the breath I maintain, and the stride that I have developed. All it took was a really awful break up back in my mid twenties to prove this to me, but really I should have known- because my mom knows best.

This week, with the awful happenings in Boston, I have been so grateful to be a runner. Not only have I felt a solidarity with those runners but I have been able to process their pain, their anger, and my own grief on many long runs this week. It's given me the space and the time to truly give homage to a city I love and a population of people that are weeping for their loss. I am proud to be a runner this week- thanks, mom.

Turns out she not just good for exercise mentorship. Today, as I was driving to Whole foods she told me "if you see the halibut, buy it." And then, after I bought said halibut and had no clue what to do with it she said, "make this sauce- it's the best thing you've ever had". She was right, Jayne Adair really does know best.

Jayne Adair's special sauce:
Perfect for two- great on fish but really could go on anything.

1 shallot
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups chopped herbs (basil and parsley are perfect)
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Cook shallots in oil until soft. Add water and simmer until reduced, about 6 minutes. Add cream and whisk to mix, simmer 6 minutes more. Blend together in food processor with fresh herbs. Return to pan and reheat, add lemon, salt and pepper to taste. Put on top of anything but is really wonderful on grilled halibut.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

When the fog rolls in

When the fog rolls into the greater Los Angeles area, the local NPR host always says, "temperatures should be warming up later, after the morning burn off". In code this means, "don't worry folks- you'll get your dose of Vitamin D today... no reason to panic". But this weekend, despite their claims of warm rays making their way through, we were socked in all weekend long. The morning fog became cloud cover, the cloud cover got thicker, and the temperature started dropping. It was gray, it was cold, and damn it was lovely.

Blame it on my childhood in Pittsburgh, my heart that still lies in New England, or the way that the Portland mist energized me, but I am a lover of weather. Rain, wind, thunderstorms and frost- weather makes my clock tick and my toes wiggle. Don't get me wrong, I love the sunshine that falls upon the hills of Topanga just as much as anyone. But, the small moments when I do get to experience a little bit of weather, I am always a little bit happier. Because in the end, it makes that sunshine feel so much better. 

This weekend, with puffy vests and scarfs wrapped around me, I basked in the foggy weather with lots of celebrating to do. Often, the fog forces me inward- in bed, wrapped in blankets- but this weekend, there was too much on the docket for that silliness. Celebrating birthdays, babies, and just friends being together we went from Filmore to Venice, Carpenteria to Topanga- good people, good food, and great weather. 

Now, Sunday evening is winding down and so are we. We started a fire in the wood stove for the first time since early March and are finally hunkering down the way the fog wanted us to.  Monday is coming too quickly and school is looming over our heads. I can tell you one thing, foggy weather isn't nearly as nice at school as it is at home. But, c'est la vie as my mom always said! This is the routine-we work, we play, we work again. And, a little baking on Sunday night makes it that much easier. 

I have two rotating snacks that Adam and I thrive off of all week long. Not only does making them sooth my anxious stomach before a long work week but it also keeps us going through the busy school days that often seem never ending. The breakfast cookies are about 95% easier to make but the granola is pretty much the best thing you've ever had. Try both of them, you won't be disappointed, we are making the granola for this week.


Breakfast cookies: found here

3 mashed bananas (ripe), 1/3 cup apple sauce, 2 cups oats, 1/4 cup almond milk, 1/2 cup raisins, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp cinnamon. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

***If I don't have any bananas I use 1 cup of pumpkin instead and added a little nutmeg. They are sweeter with the banana b/c banana's are simply sweeter so if you use pumpkin you might want to add a little maple syrup or honey.***

The Best Granola: adapted from Bon Appetit February 2013

  • 1 large egg white
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped nuts (such as almonds or pecans)
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut shavings
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 1/4 cup warmed coconut oil (olive oil if you don't have it but the coconut oil really makes it)
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup dried cherries or cranberries (or both mixed!)

  • Preheat oven to 300°F. Combine 1 large beaten egg white, 3 cups old-fashioned oats, 1 1/2 cups chopped nuts (such as almonds, pistachios, pecans, or walnuts), 1 1/2 cups coconut shavings, 1/2 cup agave syrup, 1/4 cup olive oil or warmed coconut oil, 1/4 cup sesame seeds, 2 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon in a large bowl; toss to combine. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet.
    Bake granola, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown and dry, 40-45 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet (it will crisp as it cools).
    Mix in 1 cup dried cherries or cranberries.


    Sunday, April 7, 2013

    Good to be home

    Coming home- it's inevitable. All great trips come to an end and coming home happens whether we like it or not. The long drive in traffic, the house that smells slightly moldy when you open the front door, plants that need watering, and the totally empty fridge that needs filling. Needless to say, we did not want to come home. The moment we crossed the boarder we were ready to go back and bask in our Baja bliss for weeks upon end. "We only went half way down the peninsula! There is so much more to see!" we sighed, as we sat in traffic on the 405 outside of Los Angeles.  But then, as we broke out of the streamline of cars onto the PCH and turned off onto our canyon road we both thought, "not a bad place to come back to".

    And turns out, home isn't all that bad after all  Home is warm cooked meals, fresh eggs for breakfast, and fresh veggies from the garden. Home is old friends for dinner and getting to meet fun new neighbors that have found their way to our neighborhood. Home is long runs with a dog by your side. Home is taking off the flannel winter sheets and putting on new spring sheets because it got that much warmer out. Home is family birthday parties, picking avocados from the tree, and a sweet pup that rests her head on your foot as you type on the computer. Home is good, really good.

    So, even though the prospect of teaching tomorrow is daunting (how do I do that again?) and a 530am wake up call to get in the morning run that I have done EVERYDAY for the past week (wow! I can't believe I made that goal!) sounds brutal, life back at home is sweet. So, no complaints here!

    But, needless to say, we will be dreaming of Baja until summer.

    Wednesday, April 3, 2013

    Todo bien

    Todo bien- all is good. Adam and I sit here in our final resting spot. Although we are happy to be back in Topanga tomorrow, overjoyed to see our beloved Sandee, and filled to the brim with love and adventure from this spectacular honeymoon, we are certainly sad to leave this magical place.0

    As we left our "enroute stop over town" in San Quntin we chatted with some ex pats that had moved down to Baja from Vegas years ago. They were curious about our travels, "Mulege! Wow- great spot, huh?", they said. We loved their curiosity and the fact that age 60 they live in Cabo san Lucas and are happy as clams (man- that could be us one day)! But mostly, they said Baja was the most magical place they'd been. We agreed. They also said, in response to a question about the time change, that a saying in Baja was "Why ask why?". Good question- we left it be.

    After the grueling 3 hr drive from San Quintin to Valle de Guadelupe (think running into a speed bump on the middle of the most hectic highway in your area), we arrived back in the pristine wine country of where we started- Valle de Guadelupe.

    Not in the same spot- Hotel Endemico was sold out for the night- but at the B&B we ate lunch at a week ago, Villa del Valle. A gorgeous villa perched on top of gardens and vineyards we were happy to stay at another magical place in the valley. Warm colored rooms, lush linens, and a house to mesmerize over we are happy. After a couple of quick winery visits, we found great wines and bought an old wine barrel that was transformed into a bar (pictures to come soon). Tamales for dinner and wine in our hands, we are running off to the hot tub for one last soak. What a honeymoon it's been- so good. We truly couldn't have asked for more.


    Tuesday, April 2, 2013

    A few more shots

    Loreto and San Javier mission- and all their beauty.

    Nearing the end...

    A day trip to our southern most point, two missions, and a lot of driving later- we are headed home. It's crazy that this trip is coming to an end. Due home on Thursday, it's hard to believe that we will be in our little Topanga cottage in just two nights. It's a little sad, but damn has it been good.

    Yesterday, we jumped into the car for a little day trip to the town of Loreto. Known for it's cobblestone colonial streets and islands to google at, we were happy to spend the day exploring. The two hour drive south was seamless and after a plate of huevos rancheros, we were ready to explore. The views were stunning of Isla Coronada off the coast of the city. The mission, still decked out from the Easter holiday, was honestly more stunning on the outside than the in but still worth a peak. But really, the 30km drive into the mountains to find the San Javier mission was the highlight of the trip. An old stone mission, in the middle of the mountains, this piece of history was amazing. 26 missions in the Baja California state and this was in supposed to be the best. Well, having seen 4 of them- I totally agree.

    After a long run along the beach and a farewell to the Sea of Cortez we started our 9 hour drive back north to San Quintin. A stop off in the bay that was accompanied by a very romantic serenade by a Mexican singer and his guitar, we ate clams and reminisced about our adventures. Tomorrow- back to the wine country (we needed a little more wine to top it all off). Then- back to the homestead. Back to life.