Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tasty Tuesday

I am a huge fan of farmers markets and eating local. Summer is the best season for fruits and I've been having a blast making crumbles with different fruits as they come in season over the past month. I found the original recipe in Bon Appetit magazine (May 2010) and modified it a bit, then keep mixing up the fruit as things come in and out of season. It has been a huge hit with family and friends.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

3/4 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
large pinch of salt
6 tbs chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup husked hazelnuts, toasted, coursely chopped

**I leave out the nuts and add a dash of cinnamon**

Combine flour, sugar and salt (and cinnamon if using) in medium bowl; whisk to blend. Add butter. Rub in with fingertips until mixture sticks together in clumps. Mix in oats and nuts (if using).

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 pound strawberries, hulled, halved
12 ounces rhubarb, ends trimmed, stalks cut crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar

**I don't use the vanilla bean**
Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean into sugar (if using); whisk to blend well. Add strawberries and rhubarb to sugar and toss to coat well. Spoon fruit into buttered 11x7x2 inch glass baking dish. Sprinkle oat topping evenly over filling.

Bake at 375 until filling bubbles thickly and topping is crisp - about 45 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

I've never made this the same way twice since I like to use fresh, in season fruit. Here are some of my creations:

Sour cherries, strawberries and blueberries

Sour cherries, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries (I call this one a Very Berry Crumble)

Strawberries and peaches (Peach Blush Crumble) - this one was my favorite.

All of them taste great with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

I'm planning on trying a peach plum crumble next, and thinking apple pear in the fall.

Enjoy!! If you try this and come up with a new variation, please share!

Friday, June 25, 2010

yes, we're still alive

wow...I knew it had been a long time since I wrote anything, but I didn't realize it had been almost a year!! Things got kinda crazy after finding out I was pregnant again and it was one hell of a school year. In preparation for the new baby, I felt like I couldn't spend any time on the computer unless it was work related and wanted to spend as much time with my daughter as possible. I was really worried about how life was going to change with the introduction of a new baby and how she was going to react. But I have to say, I couldn't have asked for anything better than it has been. It was a rocky start to our life as a family of 4, but Alessia totally embraced being a big sister and has been great with her little brother Gianni. My little man is going to be 4 months tomorrow, and I'm feeling like I need to get back some mommy-time and back to some blogging and venting. So expect some new posts coming up!

Nothing too exciting lately, except that my family has seem to caught baby fever since I announced my pregnancy! My cousin just had her first, a beautiful little girl, last week and we have 3 more babies coming in the fall - 1 girl, 1 boy and 1 ?? I love babies!! It's nice that the family is growing since between my husband's family and mine, we lost 3 people in 2009-2010. It's been a year of ups and downs, but hey, that's life isn't it?

Time is short, and I'm starting to ramble, so I'm off for now. Things to expect: some fun recipes I've been trying, summer craft ideas for the kids when it's too hot to go outside and, of course, updates on my crazy family!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Welcome home!

So excited!! My brother comes home today! My amazing little brother (okay, maybe he's not so little anymore - he's 22) has ridden a BICYCLE across the country! Ever since high school and all through college, Larry was very involved in Habitat for Humanity. He was president of both schools' chapters and even when to DC to help lobby for affordable housing. After graduating in May from UVA's school of Architecture in this crappy job market - only 2 kids in his class actually found jobs in the architecture industry - he joined Bike and Build. He raised over $4,000 for this wonderful organization and joined 31 other young adults in a bike ride from Boston to Santa Barbara, CA over about 9 weeks. Along the way, they stopped in cities to help local chapters of Habitat for Humanity build houses. He's amazing! Did I forget to mention that my brother had only actually ridden a bike maybe 2 times before he began training for this monumental ride?? Anyway, I am SO PROUD of him! He tells all his stories much better than I could even attempt, so check out his blog: larrybikesamerica He also has amazing photos of his journey along historic route 66 and everything else from coast to coast.
Welcome home fratellino!!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Condo living sucks

Well at least this one does. When we moved in to our brand new condo over 4 years ago, I never really thought about what it would be like to live on the 2nd floor of a building with a kid, let alone two kids! Over the past year, I've seen all the disadvantages of living here:
  1. The freaking parking lot. We are constantly battling with the townhouse owners (in the same development) that park in our spots rather than in their own driveways or garages. As it is, our building and the one across the street has less spots than the rest of the condos in the development. Especially in the winter or rainy seasons (which seems like all the time lately), it sucks when you can't park by the door or even near your own building. I really wish I had a driveway and a garage, especially during the school year when I ws trying to get a baby, my pump, lunch box and bag of work shit in the building at the same time.
  2. No space outside that's just mine. The builders had the brilliant idea of giving us "french balconies" off of our sunroom. The only problem: there's no freakin balcony! We have sliding glass doors that go nowhere. There's a railing right there! So what's the point of the sliding glass doors? I would kill for even the smallest little deck or a tiny back yard to take Alessia out to get some fresh air. Or to grill. I can't even tell you how much I miss being able to grill and eat in the great outdoors (or deck). It sucks.
  3. The stairs...What were we thinking?! It has been a major bitch and thorn in my side. Whenever I need to make a quick trip to get food or anything, I have to make sure all my purchases fit into one bag so I can carry Alessia up in the other arm. We went out yesterday and I happened to need a few things and ended up filling two bags. At least my recycleable bags can be carried on my shoulder. But they were stuffed and I just couldn't carry Alessia too. It was such a pain getting up the stairs! She crawled up, but had to pause and "test" each step for it's sturdyness. It took forever! How will I do it with two? When I go back to work I at least have to bring in my pump bag and the two kids, the rest can stay in the car until Mark gets home. Can't wait to see what a scene that'll be!
  4. There's no shade here!! Even though we have two playgrounds in the development, they're in the worst possible locations - in direct sunlight all day long. So the [probably toxic] plastic gets unbearably hot and renders it unusable. But try explaining that to a 15 month-old who just keeps saying "slide slide" every time we pass by. There's nowhere we can play out here where we won't boil in the sun. Oh and this summer they decided to add more mulch to the playground. Wonderful...except they used the same dyed one they use for the landscaping. God knows what is in it, not to mention it stains!
  5. oh my beloved pool, how you have betrayed me! Before Alessia was born, I spent literally every non rainy day poolside, never really bothered by the fact that there was no shade by any of the chairs or over any of the pool ( I was a sun worshiper and loved to just lie there and read). And I really didn't think too much about the fact that the builders didn't put in a baby pool. But now it sucks! Alessia is a little fish - loves the water! But I hate having her in the direct sun for that long and it has been a very exhausting first trimester holding her in the big pool (cuz of course it's not just holding her - she wants to "swim" and "jump" from the edge and bounce up and down.) Only recently has she let me put her in one of the plastic floaty things (although I cringe to think what it's made of), but we still can't go until around 4 or later. That's the other thing...the pool doesn't even open until 11. She eats lunch between 11:30 and 12 and sleeps from 1-4-ish. I still make the schlep with her as often as we can, because Lord knows I won't be able to do it next summer with a 3 month old in tow.
There are a few things that keep me going here: I love our condo - the way it flows, all the colors we used and the fact that all the wall corners are rounded. And of course, my wonderful neighbor and friend Danielle lives in the building right across the street. I would be miserable without her and freak out every time they talk about moving. Speaking of Danielle, she recently gave birth to a beautiful baby boy! Congrats! If she can live here with two kids, I guess there's hope for me too! She's been an inspiration to me in so many ways over the past year of our renewed friendship and has helped me transform into the mom I am today. Love you Danielle!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Big news

So I haven't been really blogging this summer (not like that's much different than all year long), but one of the reasons is that the only thing that has really been on my mind is that I'm pregnant again (baby #2) and I wasn't quite ready to tell people or really talk/write about it. We've actually known for a little over a month - we found out right smack bewteen the two funerals, so it was actually some much needed good news for both sides of the family. For me, I wasn't so sure at first. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited about having another baby. I always wanted at least 2 kids, but, as everyone has heard me say numerous times, I didn't want two kids in diapers at the same time. I know it sounds ridiculous, and that's not really true...I just wanted Alessia to have enough time with us on her own before another one came along. We were planning on having them about 4 years apart, just about when Alessia was ready to start some sort of school and I could hopefully stay home the first year with the baby. But SURPRISE! it happened a lot sooner than expected.
As excited as I am, I have a lot of anxiety about this pregnancy and about our family growing. First of all, when I was pregnant with Alessia I didn't know half the things I know now about the food we eat, the products we use, etc. It was a pretty stress-free pregnancy. I just followed the short list of eat/don't eat the doctor gave me and enjoyed my weekly greasy cheeseburgers and fries. I didn't think twice about the bellly butter I rubbed on my belly religiously or the makeup I was using daily. Now I almost feel like the knowledge I have is paralyzing.
I'm also anxious about how the dynamic of our little family will change. My husband is really excited about the new baby, but he's the baby in the family and doesn't know what it's like when mom and dad bring home another one. I look at Alessia and I worry about how she'll feel about being a big sister. I know it'll be different than I felt when my sister (and later, brother) was born. I was 6. I remember being so excited and proud at first, "This is my little sister, isn't she cute?" And she was the most beautiful baby, which everyone always made a point of saying. My excitement and proudness soon turned to intense jealousy. I remember asking if we could send her back and making nasty comments when people said things like "she's so beautiful, she doesn't even look like a real baby. She looks like a doll!" I always had to point out how she pooped or smelled :o) I know it's natural for siblings to be jealous when a new one comes along, but knowing how it felt when all the attention shifted away from me and to the new baby, I just don't want to see that happen to my little girl. I'm assuming it'll be better since she'll only be about 2, but then I remember my cousin Olivia when her little sister came home from the hospital (same age difference as mine will have). She wouldn't even look at you if you were holding the baby. She soon got better, but it would just break my heart if Alessia did that.
I know there are things I can't control, Alessia's feelings being one of them, and that I shouldn't spend this whole pregnancy worrying. But I can't help it!
I hope I don't come off sounding like I don't want this baby, because of course I do. The emotions of a surprise pregnancy are just very different than a planned one.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Crazy craftiness

We've been up to some craftiness this summer. Our fun has included painting ceramic art, finger painting for the first time, lots of coloring, tissue paper and glue fun, making paper bag puppets and a trip to the Crayola Factory.

Here we are painting some ceramic shoes at our cousin Julian's birthday party:
Here she is doing some awesome fingerpainting with zia (aunt) Tina:

Here's her awesome Crayola Factory artwork:

Some more awesomeness - an underwater fish party! She had a blast gluing the tissue paper on (which were scraps left over from when I made paper "balloons" for her eco-friendly birthday party - which I am now realizing I never blogged about)
And our most recent craft, some paper bag puppets and a colorful sun. She loves these - I put them on and bark and meow at her and she cracks up! She decided she wanted to decorate everything with some shiny heart stickers. Lots of love in this house!

And here's mommy's craft of the summer. I really wanted to get Alessia some ABC magnets for the fridge, but you know me and plastics, so the traditional ones were out of the question. My sister Tina helped me make some wooden ones. And they came out freakin awesome (if I do say so myself!)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

slow summer

I can't believe summer is more than half over! We've actually spent most of the summer staying at my mom's between the funerals, then Mark has been working like a dog and her house is much closer than ours. Anyway, we have managed to get some fun in: while staying up there, we made some home-made playdough, went to the pool and enjoyed yummy fruit smoothies daily.

Alessia had a blast at nonna's, but I would say the highlight was definitely the playdough. It kept her occupied forever! Here's the recipe we used:


2 cups of flour

4 tbs. cream of tartar

2 tbs. cooking oil

1 cup of salt

Food coloring

2 cups of water


Mix the above ingredients in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until the mixture congeals.

Store in sealed container in the fridge.

We made half the recipe, and instead of food coloring, used tumeric to color it yellow. The color actually came out really well. I was afraid it would stain our hands as we played, but it didn't at all. It did smell a bit when we played with it right away (like the tumeric) but the smell was gone by the next day. I did take pics, but unfortunately with my mom'ss camera and didn't send them to myself. Alessia loved it though. I found some old cookie cutters and a small wooden rolling pin and she just went to town! It was great not having to worry about her eating the dough, though she never even attempted it.

My mom has a Vitamix that I am now addicted to. We made yummy fruit smoothies everyday that I've been craving since we returned home. My specialty:






(and add some ice)


I'm sure I could make some yummy ones with an ordinary blender, but let's face it, it's just more fun with the powerful Vitamix!! Too bad we don't have any room to store one right now :o(