Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Post-baby outings have given us a fresh perspective. When a wide-eyed Serene is wiggling and garbling in wonder at every new sight, we have exponentially more fun delighting in her merriment. Not that Alex's and my dates aren't cherished, but we get to experience everything through a child's eyes. Which means we scope out kid-friendly destinations now. Like when my sweet aunt brought us amazing zucchini nut bread from a local farm a while ago. Visiting a farm piqued our interest, especially when they make delectable baked goods. Then she told us the farm features kid-friendly activities too. Naturally, we had to stop by. We went there last week for family day. The farm was not what I had pictured in my mind. I envisioned ambling around something like this or this, where we'd be fruit-picking, riding ponies, and buying freshly baked bread. Instead, we arrived at a permanent, country-esque fair situated on asphalt. There were farm-style shops for the adults, and attractions for the kiddos. Unfortunately, the carousel, pony rides, and train rides open only on the weekends. Fortunately, the farm wasn't crowded since it was a weekday, so we practiced using a new tripod to acquire some family pictures. We also browsed the stores, bought local goodies, and ate lunch. Though we wanted to take Serene on the carousel, she probably had just as much fun playing with a water bottle, climbing the walls, or looking at produce. I continue to learn that spending time together is what counts, anyhow, no matter what we're doing. That's some good, farm-fresh perspective.
Friday, July 25, 2014
One of summer's best features is the produce. Summer produces the freshest ingredients that make the tastiest, simple-to-create dishes. Like capellini with tomatoes and basil. I love the delicately thin noodle paired with the intensely flavorful olive oil sauce - full of garlic, sweet ripened pearl tomatoes, and freshly picked, aromatic basil. It is my tried-and-true pasta of choice when dining at an Italian restaurant. My favorite potluck item when a lovely friend makes it for our Tuesday community group dinners. I realized last week that all these simple ingredients are ones we habitually have stocked up in the kitchen. So I whipped up capellini with tomatoes and basil with a side of sauteed chicken for dinner. Alex and I agreed it was so good that I made it two weeks in a row. The freshness of the ingredients is nonnegotiable: just ripened tomatoes, just plucked basil, fresh garlic, good extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper. I would love it even more if I could more readily find whole wheat angel hair or capellini. Nevertheless, such a perfect (and colorful!) summer dinner that tastes light but is quite filling. I eat so many portions of this that it might be regarded unhealthy. I could say it's because I'm a breastfeeding mama who is hungry all the time, but who am I kidding? This just might make it on the weekly meal plan for the third week in a row now that I've written this.
Capellini with Tomatoes and Basil (adapted from here)
1 lb angel hair or capellini pasta
3/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp garlic, minced
2 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 lb mini pearl grape tomatoes, halved
2 oz fresh basil leaves, julienned
3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Extra julienned basil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving
1. Boil a large pot of water. Add angel hair or capellini and cook for 2 minutes, or until al dente so that it is still firm to the bite. Watch your pasta carefully as it cooks so it doesn't get soggy. Drain the pasta, and shock with cold water. Reserve some of the pasta water.
2. In a large saute pan, heat extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds until slightly browned. Add tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5-7 minutes, tossing occasionally until tomatoes are softened.
3. Place pasta in a large serving bowl. Add sauce and Parmesan. Toss well. Add some pasta water if pasta seems too dry. Top with fresh basil and Parmesan. Serve immediately.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
I was never one to make a beeline for the water park once summer hit. I don't know how to swim. I'm also self-conscious about getting tanned. Those two reasons have me customarily sitting in the shade the majority of the time. Alex, of course, adores the water park. When we learned that some dear family would be venturing there over the Fourth of July weekend, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to take Serene there for the first time. The sweltering afternoon made the watery oasis a welcome refuge. We all went wading in the manmade river, and then we took Serene to the kiddie section. She garbled and splashed happily in one corner for about 30 minutes. Her infatuation with watery overstimulation halted there, and I spent the remainder of the time sitting with her under the shade, while Alex and our friends conquered the big kid slides. We didn't stay long because we were catching wind of heat-induced crankiness, and Serene was due for her afternoon nap. We continue to learn that attractions only entertain a baby for so long. Our family outings these days, while always enjoyable, are often abrupt more so than leisurely. They're the anticipated diversions to balance out an established home routine and daily responsibilities. Though this space immortalizes our periodic adventures here and there, having a sweet babe (and our packed schedules) make us cherish being homebodies. My teenage self would have scoffed at this preference, but my older (wiser, hopefully) self is completely content with the idiosyncrasies of this season of life.
Monday, July 21, 2014
We're not wine connoisseurs, but Alex wanted to drop by Napa during our road trip up north last month. We sampled, as he claims, the best dessert wine in all the land here the last time we were in Wine Country. He neglected to buy a bottle then, and has bemoaned this decision by purchasing various moscatos and rieslings over these past two years. He would bring home a bottle in high hopes it is comparable to the elusive wine from Napa, take a sip, and gag in vast disappointment. Which means we've been pouring wine down the drain and collecting the bottles for decor. So when we were up in NorCal last month, we navigated our way to the castle winery with some dear friends in tow so that Alex could finally claim his prize and feel like a noble with his fancy wine ;) The rest of us were up for feeling bougie too, so we stopped by Yountville on the way back for delectable pastries at this renowned boulangerie, followed by a gastronomically sensational dinner here. A fulfilled two-year-old wine hankering, family-style farm-to-table fare, fresh air, and friendly company: all the makings of a peachy vacation finale.
Other happenings during last month's road trip: marine life up close, the lovely 17 mile drive, a picnic baby-q shower, and the spiffiest boardwalk.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
A little birdie told us our very dear friends' nest is growing, so we celebrated with a baby shower over the weekend. The Leongs reside in New York, so when we heard mama Melody would be flying into the West Coast for the weekend, we had to shower Baby Leong with lots of love at her lovely parents-in-law's. Their wedding centered around a sweet lovebird theme, so it was fitting to extend the motif with the impending arrival of their little girl. We picked a yellow and green palette to match their registry, and surrounded amazingly detailed birdie-inspired treats made by Melody's cousin with vintage tablecloths and runners, a birdcage, chalkboard signage, Italian bottles (because Melody has a soft spot for Italy), and crocheted doilies. I made a simple white and silver cupcake liner garland, tons of flowers out of cardstock, tissue paper, and felt to withstand the scorching SoCal heat, and some stuffed birdies to add to the whimsy. Some of the girls made the yummiest bite-sized Italian baby shower fare I'd ever tasted, and the desserts were top notch too! One of the girls also made a slew of pretty pinwheels, which we juxtaposed alongside giant crocheted doilies for a mock photobooth. We love the Leongs so, and I was so glad to spend some time with Melody because we probably won't see them for another year or so. Nevertheless, we cannot wait to meet Baby Leong. Serene will have a cross-country pen pal best friend soon!