Welcome! Here you’ll find the chronicles of my adventures in cooking, making over our new home, traveling, being a farmer’s wife, and all the absurdity that seems to follow me around.
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Hey guys. It’s Friday. You know what that means? In 5 more days I’ll get a day off, wahoo! And, it means a trip to Costco, which will include buying 8 lbs of Kerry Gold butter and 6 lbs of uncured bacon to get us through the month #allthefat. With that vision in your minds, let’s get to right to what I was loving this week.
Where are my Serial junkies out there?! If you didn’t listen to the first season of Serial, do it now. Then, listen to Undisclosed. Undisclosed is a little hard to get through as it’s super dense and full of a lot of legal technicalities and I admittedly zoned out during at least 30% of it, but it’s still super interesting, and convincing, and scary. The last couple weeks have been cool because Adnan Syed’s post-conviction relief hearing took place and was covered by both podcasts. It was really interesting to hear the pro-Adnan camp cover the hearing and Sarah Koenig cover it with her “unbiased” journalist approach (unbiased is in quotes because I’m not sure she is). I’ll say I find Susan Simpson a bit glib which I don’t think does Adnan any favors and I also find Sarah Koenig a bit of a wet noodle (commit already), but still, I really appreciated the chance to compare the two versions of the hearing, rather than only hearing from one party, and I’m still convinced of his innocence. #freeadnan
2. Water bottle
I’m Katie and I have a water bottle addiction. It started in 3rd grade when I would freeze a plastic bottle full (but not all the way full) of water overnight and take it to class with me the next day. Not to toot my own horn, but I was an early adopter of Nalgenes in the late 90s and to this day, have a water bottle with me everywhere I go (and probably a good build up of BPA). I’m always trying to find the perfect water bottle – I pick up free ones at conferences and try all the different kinds I find (on sale). I really wanted to like Liberty bottles because they have a social responsibility component, but they leak and dent. I’ve developed a preference for bottles with straws, but learned the hard way, that most of them leak when air pressure or air temperature changes. I’ve had an entire bottle slowly leak all over my carry-on on the airplane because of the pressure change … ackkk! My sister swears by Contigo bottles and promised me they wouldn’t leak, so I picked one up before I went to Colorado and gave it a try. And, it rocked!! It didn’t leak and it turned out to have a handy clip so I could hang it from the seat pocket. After years of searching for the perfect, non-leaking, straw water bottle, I may have found it. I know…nerd alert! Can you really believe I just devoted 200 words to a water bottle??
3. Taylor Swift
I was horrified last week when Kanye West’s song came out about Taylor Swift – the continued misogyny and narcissism in his music grosses me out more than most other musicians and the arrogance associated with claiming he made Taylor Swift famous is absurd. I was never a T Swift fan during her country days because her voice grates on me, but her new album is ok with me, since it’s so engineered that her voice isn’t front and center. #thecritichasspoken Anyway, all this is to say, I’m not a fan of either of these two, but I LOVED Taylor Swift’s Grammy Speech. Despite her pitchy voice (in my expert opinion), she continues to be one of the better celebrity role models for young girls (even with her thigh gap) and I am stoked that she called Kanye out.
So, I never thought I would own Uggs. After the Britney Spears-fueled obsession of the mid-2000s, I wanted nothing to do with them. But…I’d seen this pair on a friend and they didn’t really look like Uggs, they looked like sweaters on your feet. This was in 2010. It took another 6 years (10-15 years post Britney) for me for me to seriously consider them. I saw they were on sale recently (because we never pay full price), so my mom got them for me as an early birthday gift. Now, I get it. They are so comfortable and cozy and this pair, that can be tall or short, are totally like sweaters for your feet/legs. It’s taking all my willpower not to wear them to work. Orrrrrrr…since I wrote the dress code, perhaps I should rewrite it??
5. Homes with views
I was lucky enough to grow up in two homes with amazing views in Colorado. Check these out. This is my dad and stepmom’s house with a stunning view of Pikes Peak – from my bed (evening light and morning light).
This is from my mom and stepdad’s deck overlooking a frigid Horsetooth Reservoir.
Have a great weekend everyone!!
First, I had these grand plans to post a kitchen renovation plan yesterday, but our power was out for the first half of the day and my computer was dead, soooo that will come Monday. I’m so excited for you to see what we have been working on and what we have planned!
Now, on to our 2015 Year in Review. As a warning, this is basically a short novel. For better or worse, this year, the first year of our marriage was a doozy. We had the highest highs and the lowest lows, but if it did anything it brought us closer together as a family.
I started 2015 by chopping off 18 inches of hair and donating it in my friend’s name as she prepared for a fight against breast cancer. The chop was a long time coming, but I was glad to be able to do it for her.
Her sweet cousins hosted a “Walk Down Mammory Lane” party to support her as she prepared for a double mastectomy. We were tasked with bringing boob-themed treats, so I turned to Pinterest, obviously. A couple friends were in town and I put them to work helping me make mammo-grahams and titty-pops. I wish I had a picture of the spread at the party – it was hilarious and endearing and tasty. Somehow we managed to get it past the 12 year old kiddo (boy) what these treats were meant to resemble.
TimTheFarmer and I then embarked on our belated honeymoon to Puerto Rico. We went 4 months after our wedding to accommodate our work schedules and in the dead of winter, we were thrilled with our choice. We spent the majority of the time in a little VRBO bungalow in Vieques 4-wheeling out to Blue Beach every day, which we had all to ourselves, and it was awesome.
I then headed to Arizona for a conference and stopped in El Paso on the way home to see my sister and her family. My mom came down too and we promptly worked on digging a tunnel to Juarez and sent Benjamin exploring.
The kiddo entered our favorite beet recipe—he called them Nate’s Boyled Beets— into the Top Chef-themed cooking competition at school and got 2nd place!
The was the month our whole world changed. We lost Rose, my husband’s mother, out of the blue, and without clear cause. She was a core part of our daily life as she lived 10 minutes away and meant everything to the kiddo, and us. We barely knew how to process such a sudden loss, let alone support a 12 year old and we just hoped we were doing it half way right.
Rose was an incredible woman, a mom, a grandma, a breast cancer survivor, the voice of a convent and retreat center, and became a best friend to me when I was living in a town far away from most of my friends and family. Her wake was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. We stood in the receiving line for four solid hours and there was a line out the door for the entire time. Every person who walked through that line told me what a kind person Rose was and how she touched his/her life. If I took anything from that day, it was that kindness really does matter. I often try to be tough and can be a bit of a ball-buster to get my way. Rose got her way, and she was always kind, so I often try to channel her and bring a softer approach to my conversations. We miss her every day.
Our friends and family rallied around us and in one of the coolest gestures, Rei, a local chef – who is seriously talented, but don’t tell him I said so – invited the kiddo to join him in the kitchen of his restaurant, Panzur as he recreated his award-winning recipe for family meal. The kiddo absolutely loved it and it was awesome to see him learn what it’s like in a kitchen.
The highlight of April was a trip to Boston. TimTheFarmer’s cousin is the head coach of the Boston College baseball team and a former minor league baseball player. He set us up with tickets to a Red Socks game and passes to get on the field during batting practice. It was awesome. Fenway Park is such an iconic field, so it was really amazing just to be there, let alone to be escorted down onto the field like VIPs! We had an insane sprint through multiple T stations to get there on time and at one point thought we’d gotten on an express commuter train that was going bypass Fenway and take us right to the ‘burbs, but somehow we walked up to the gate right on time. Having attended baseball games my whole life, it was a whole other experience to be at the level of the players and watch them at bat. During the Orioles’ warmup, we tried to catch fly balls out in right field and then settled into our seats behind home plate to enjoy the game. Thanks Mike!
The next day we went to watch the Boston College baseball game and the kiddo got to hang in the dugout with the college players for the whole game. Who knows what he heard in there :). He loved the whole experience and now hopes to play for BC someday.
We ended the quick trip with a visit to the New England Aquarium – TimTheFarmer’s favorite. We then walked to the North End to a classic Italian bakery that we visit every time we’re in Boston and visited Captain Jackson’s Historic Chocolate Shop on the Freedom Trail to watch the chocolate making demo, which is alway cool.
May marks the start of farming season around here. TimTheFarmer found a secret stash of ramps and foraged a few buckets in early May. Yum!
Then, the first group of piglets arrived at the farm and the boys made sure they felt at home in their new environment.
June was a doozy of a month. First, I headed to California for a conference and our annual family reunion. I stayed with grad school friends outside San Diego and had a great time making fresh squeezed OJ from an orange tree in their yard with their daughters (for mimosas of course).
After the conference, I headed up to Newport for the family reunion where Benjamin used the piñata as a hat and we had an arm wrestling throwdown. JoJo beat Carolyn and is almost strong enough to beat me, now that he’s 18 :).
A colleague got married in an event tent on campus that has a circus-carnival-cabaret feel to it and we enjoyed a date night and beautiful celebration.
I then headed to Colorado for another conference. I was thrilled to be able to head out early to spend a few days in southern Colorado in the San Luis Valley. The drive from Denver to the valley is my favorite. My stepfamily has roots in the San Luis Valley that date back to the conquistadors and it’s a place that’s truly special to me. It has a magic to it and I love visiting. My nana makes the best tortillas which I’ve missed, so it was treat to have some while I was there. We also visited a (very) rural church that my grandpa attended as a child and has worked to restore.
After the conference, I headed up to my mom’s to spend more time with my nephews. Benjamin is just too cool for school and made an awesome paddleboarding copilot.
July was another doozy, but for other reasons (read on). There was lots to be done to get all our ducks in a row to buy our home (which takes FOREVER in NY) and lots of berry picking. Through work, I volunteered with coworkers and students to count trees in NYC as part of a massive tree survey effort. It was fascinating to see how this process worked.
The kiddo went to his first sleep-away camp. It’s run by NY DEC and is the same camp TimTheFarmer went to growing up; in fact, the kiddo ended up in the same bunkhouse as his dad! He learned all sorts of outdoors skills and to bow hunt. He loved it!
After we dropped the kiddo off at camp, we headed to Saratoga to watch the horse races (which were really fun) and then to Lake George for a night.
Then, I got Legionnaire’s Disease. I know. What?!? It’s a super bad form of pneumonia that swept through NYC’s outer boroughs this summer which I must have picked up when I was getting sprayed by air conditioner sweat while counting trees. It was awful – I’ve never been that sick. To add to it, the antibiotics, which also treat the plague and anthrax, made me hallucinate like you wouldn’t believe and I thought I was losing my mind. It confirmed my hunch that hallucinogenic drugs wouldn’t be my thing. It took weeks to get my energy and lung function back to normal.
After emerging from the fog of Legionnaire’s, we picked more fruit and made lots of peach whisky BBQ sauce. Oh, and I got a ticket for texting and driving when I WASN’T actually texting. I was SOOO mad. I’d be ok with the ticket if I’d actually been doing it. Ergh.
As always, we spent a couple days at the Dutchess County Fair. The kiddo is hoping for one of these pig trophies next year.
We also celebrated our one year anniversary with a peach picking date at Rose Hill Farm. We’d befriended the owners over the last few years and LOVE this farm. On this day, they told us they’d finally found a buyer for the farm and they’d suggested the new owners hire TimTheFamer to run the farm. It was no coincidence to us that this happened on our anniversary and that the name of the farm was Rose Hill. It’s taken another 4 months to come together, but we’re thrilled that starting tomorrow, TimTheFarmer is the new farm manager for Rose Hill Farm and that the new owners are super cool. More on this soon!
September & October
Phew! If you’re still with me here, you get a gold star – thanks for tagging along! In September, Matt and Lindsay (of El Paso fame) visited and we took them picking at Rose Hill Farm. We also took them to Panzur for an awesome meal and weird looking beer.
We then FINALLY closed on our house. Yippee, yippee!!
Our last home was cozy and served to start our life as a family, but it was tiny with no closets and worse, it had a serious mold problem which has caused chronic health problems for all of us. It felt AMAZING to step into a spacious, clean home and know it was ours.
I had lots of plans for the house, but spend each fall on traveling for work, so I had to put most of them on hold. In September and October, I travelled to Philadelphia, Washington D.C. (twice), Chicago, Steamboat Springs, Fort Collins, Portland (OR), Atlanta, Milledgville, and NYC.
While in Fort Collins (my hometown), we celebrated my mom’s 60th birthday which may or may not have included the birthday girl doing a summersault to impress her grandson and cheered on the Colorado State Rams with a crew of friends and family.
I also started this blog!!
October also marked the loss of our cat, Dash. He’d been with Tim and Nate since Nate was a toddler. He took a walk into our woods one day and that was that.
We wrapped up October the boys dressing as Han Solo and Chewbacca to make the CSA deliveries to Brooklyn. #awesome.
My mom and stepdad were our first houseguests in November, so we got the guest room set up (sort of) and welcomed them, and the carload of my stuff. We put them to work painting and building shelves while they were here.
I rewarded them for their hard work with oxtail soup, which totally freaked everyone out when they saw the tail come out of the freezer. Then, they tried the soup and couldn’t get enough. Recipe coming soon!
We scrambled to get the wooden skis my parents gifted us hung and all the moving boxes unpacked (or hidden in the basement) in preparation for hosting 2nd Thanksgiving.
It was wonderful to host our first party with our closest friends and family!
November flew by and before we knew it, we were cutting our first tree for our new home.
We got the tree up and then got on a plane to El Paso for a quick trip.
When we got home, my FIL came over and we decorated the tree.
TimTheFarmer and I then headed to New Hampshire for his conference where I hoped to ski. Buuuut, it was raining and the mountains weren’t open, so I worked from the hotel and did some final Christmas shopping at the LL Bean outlet. #bust
We celebrated Penny’s first birthday (how sweet is this dress?!) and brought Otis home.
Then, it was time to celebrate Christmas!
Wow!! Are you exhausted? I am. 2015 was quite a year. Losing Rose, the stress of buying a home, and getting Legionnaire’s Disease made for some low moments, but I love doing this recap because we can look back and see all the amazing things we got to do as a family.
We wish you and your family a wonderful New Year and can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store!
When you’re thinking of where to plan your next family vacation, El Paso, Texas is totally at the top of the list, right? It’s not? Huh. Well, over the last couple years, I’ve learned that this border town in the middle of nowhere has more to offer than you’d expect. My sister and her family have been living there for her husband’s job and it’s been fun exploring this city with them.
A few things I’ve learned:
– It is quite literally a border town. Juarez, Mexico is just a stone’s throw away across the Rio Grande. Much of the highway runs along “the fence” and you can walk over a number of bridges into Mexico.
– El Paso is hard to get to – it’s far from everywhere (except Mexico). It’s a 7-8 hour drive to any major city and there are few direct flights.
– I have heard that the rest of Texas doesn’t really claim El Paso – the culture, landscape, and feel of the city is much more Southwest/New Mexico than Texas.
– It’s an eater’s city. There’s really great food, ranging from fancy burgers to Mexican street food to high end tacos. We mostly just go from restaurant to restaurant while we’re there.
– It’s expected that you speak Spanish. I don’t, at least not well, so that’s an adventure.
– The border is far more fluid than I expected. People commute both directions daily to work, shop, and recreate.
– El Paso has great sunsets.
So, to our trip. My sister is suddenly moving back to Colorado in two weeks, and my friends Lindsay and Matt planned to visit her before she moved. The visit got bumped up to last weekend and flights were surprisingly affordable from NY, so TimTheFarmer and I hopped on a plane (with the antlers and advent calendars) to join them. We packed a lot into three days!
What We Did
You can drive or walk into Juarez. It’s my understanding that when you drive in, you can go to the fancier parts of town, but we walked over the Paso Del Norte bridge which puts you a few blocks away from traditional Mexican marketplaces. To cross into Mexico, you just pay a few cents ($.30, I think) and walk across the Rio Grande over the bridge. We were immediately greeted by many options for dental care and these traveling musicians.
My BIL took us to the main square with a 300 year old church watching over all the action, including multiple photo opportunities with Santa and his plastic reindeer (think deer yard ornaments adorned with Santa hats) and tinsel, lots of tinsel.
We then walked to the market area with amazing fresh produce, lots of sweets and piñatas, and anything else you might need to purchase. We sampled cajeta (dulce de leche made from goat’s milk), some fruity gelatin candy thing, and chicharrones. You can’t bring any produce or spices back across the border, which was a huge bummer because I’m low on cinnamon sticks and everyone was selling them (along with cigarettes, which I didn’t need).
We bought a few gifts and then headed back to El Paso. To get back into the US, you need to pay another $.30 and then show your passport at the US border crossing.
White Sands National Monument
White Sands is about 90 minutes from El Paso, in the New Mexican desert, surrounded by mountains. It’s an absolutely amazing natural formation. All the sudden, you leave the sagebrush/yucca desert and arrive in these rolling white hills of shifting sand. It looks like you’re in snow, but you know you’re not and it totally messes with your mind. We packed a lunch, borrowed sleds from friends (you can also purchase them in the Visitor’s Center), bought some wax, and headed into the dunes. There are roads plowed throughout the dunes and you can drive to a variety of parking areas to explore the dunes and sled. There may have been a pants-less Benjamin incident.
We seriously sledded for hours. The adults and kids had equal amounts of fun, and crashes.
By the end of the day, Benjamin was riding down from the top and going off jumps and after some initial concerns, Oliver made it about a third of the way up.
On the way out, we stopped at the boardwalk which allows you to walk out over the dunes and look for critters. The boardwalk seemed to function as a race track for most visitors’ kids, and all the noise from the running on metal made spotting critters tricky, but Uncle Timmy and Benjamin sure looked hard.
We left with sand everywhere. And by everywhere, I mean everywhere. That’s all I’ll say about that. White Sands is really an amazing place. I highly recommend it. Make sure to check the website for closures due to missile tests before driving all the way there. Yes, missile tests.
The Wyler Aerial Tram takes you to the top of the Franklin Mountains which sit in center of El Paso. We’ve tried to ride it the last two times I was there, but it’s been closed due to high winds. The winds were (relatively) calm this time, so we headed out!
As we were driving up to the parking area, we had a hard time spotting the tram – we’re used to ski area gondolas with large towers along the route. This tram runs along a cable with no towers between the top and bottom – it’s a long, lonely line that makes you momentarily question your decision. Then, you remember you’re a Colorado girl 🙂 and hop on the tram. It’s a quick 4 minute ride to the top and you get some awesome views of the cacti and rock formations (and cement quarry) along the way. The platform at the top offers a 360* view where you can see El Paso, Mexico, New Mexico. According to the website you can see a third state from there, but I can’t figure out what state that might be. This is a great way to get a true sense of the vastness of the deserts of the Southwest.
We went to this throwback arcade-bar for my BIL’s birthday. It’s full of every 1980s arcade video game you can imagine. The boys were all in heaven and TimTheFarmer took me on a tour of his childhood. It was a pretty classic gender breakdown here as the girls were all hoping for skee-ball or air hockey (which they didn’t have) and the boys were geeking out on all the throwback games. The girls sat at the table for a couple hours while the boys relived their mall-arcade glory days. Also, it should be noted that they have these
horrific huge blended drinks full of sugar, fruity booze, and candy. Carolyn got the Talk Nerdy To Me … full of nerds. She loved it. I thought it was awful. And the server (who was really sweet, just a bit green), didn’t think they had silver tequila … um, we’re in El Paso, of course you do! The music was way too loud and the drinks were too sweet, but the boys had fun, so we’ll call it a win.
Where We Ate
We’ve eaten at Crave every time I visit El Paso. They use fresh, sustainably sourced ingredients and make simple, awesome food. All their burgers are great and their sweet potato waffle fries come with a legendary cinnamon marshmallow cream sauce which is ridiculous (I actually recommend the garlic aioli for dipping). I was heartbroken to be trying to stick to my nutritional therapist’s mold-detox guidelines i.e. stricter than paleo, which meant I had to pass on the new menu item: green chile chicken and waffles. The table shared tuna ceviche and crispy artichokes – yum! There were lots of burgers ordered and I enjoyed the roasted chicken and asparagus (and sweet potato fries…duh). They have an amazing brunch too. Only complaint: green chile mac and cheese is a total let down. It has so much potential and is completely boring. Our whole table agreed.
This is an upscale Mexican restaurant with great tacos and is a favorite of my sister and her friends. They all say they go for the food, not the service which is notoriously slow and erroneous. We went to celebrate my BIL’s birthday and despite having a reservation, they crammed 10 of us into a booth meant for 6 people and then filled it with unnecessarily giant plates. There was no room on the table and I couldn’t eat with my right hand because my plate was balancing 1/2 off the table and blocking my arm. It was the most claustrophobic dining experience I’ve ever had and I couldn’t wait to get out of there. The table shared chips with salsa and guacamole and chicharrones and I sampled the pork belly, coconut shrimp, and fish tacos – all of which was fantastic. Unfortunately TimTheFarmer’s crispy red snapper came out 15 minutes after everyone else’s food. The food was delicious – it always is. The company was great. The service and seating was less than optimal. Oh, and there was an unnecessarily strong eau de tannenbaum wafting through the restaurant … it messed with the atmosphere, Mexican restaurants shouldn’t smell like a Christmas tree lot. #justsayin
L & J Cafe
Known as the “old place by the cemetery,” this is an El Paso landmark with classic Mexican food. They’re known for their queso, but I can’t report on that since I’m staying away from dairy. I can’t remember the name of what I ordered (it’s the kind of place without an online menu), it was some sort of shredded beef, and it was delicious. Everyone enjoyed their meal. My only complaint is that they don’t have a liquor license, so their margaritas are made with wine, which tasted fine but gave me a headache. Definitely check this place out while you’re in town. It’s real-deal El Paso.
Crisostomo is my sister’s go-to lunch joint, so much so that they know and love her kids there. It’s simple, authentic Juarez street food with tortillas like my grandma’s. Literally. There are grandmas rolling out fresh tortillas behind the counter. They’re amazing – the grandmas and the tortillas. Both the quesadilla and burrito options are delicious. I’m a big fan of any of the shredded meats mixed with peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes, and the lengua (tongue) isn’t bad either. On this trip, we were trying to stick to our mold-detox protocol, so we went with the barbacoa burrito with avocado, no beans or cheese. With some salt and salsas added, it was delicious! My sister’s boys love the beanie weenie burritos. Apparently there is a strong love affair with weenies in Juarez, so hot dog filled tortillas are totally a thing. Weenies in Juarez. That has to be a title for something.
It was a fantastic trip all around – so fun to explore El Paso with friends and family!
And, Carolyn is the amazing photographer behind any of the sledding photos I’m in.