Friday, June 29, 2012

Good clean fun

We took Roxie to get a much needed bath last weekend. She was a very good sport and when she wasn't shaking water all over the room, she was sitting happily at the center of attention. Charlie decided that his friend Puppy (also known as Doggy) needed a bath, too.

After their bath, both Roxie and Puppy needed to be dried off.

Charlie might have a future in dog grooming.

I'm not sure who had more fun - Roxie, Puppy, or Charlie!

This sweet dog is having a birthday next week. She will be 10 years old on the 4th of July - a big birthday!

While Ryan and Charlie took care of the dogs, Izzy and I hung out in the pet store.

We had to test out every single toy that squeaked.

Ha! Not sure what I said or did to get this look...but if that isn't her brother's serious face, then I don't know my left from my right.

I can't believe next week is the 4th of July - mid summer! How is that possible? It's one of my favorite holidays - full on summer, great food, celebrations, parades (!!) and fireworks. I imagine it will be a subdued holiday for most everyone this year since it falls on a Wednesday. We'll be celebrating Roxie's birthday with all her four-legged friends at a Dog Party - woof woof!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Simple and easy summer dessert (peach and blackberry crisp)

I haven't posted a recipe here in a long time, and I was completely inspired by these fresh, local peaches and blackberries. A crisp, or crumble, is one of my favorite desserts - easy to make, always delicious. You cannot mess them up - all you need is flavorful fruit to make them turn out great. I like to use peaches and berries in the summer, apples or pears in the fall. My grandmother Helen always made the most delicious apple crisp, so I'm partial to the version of hers that I remember.

These are local peaches and blackberries through our CSA, Good Natured Family Farms. The first week we had the peaches from our CSA, we ate them so fast that I never actually used them in a recipe. We had some friends over for dinner during the week and a crisp made the perfect, quick and easy dessert as I already had all the ingredients on hand.

One of these days I'll have to attempt a pie. Or maybe not. The easy, somewhat messy looking crisp seems to win out every time.

Served warm over vanilla icecream, the dish was instantly devoured. Little effort, big reward - just how I like it.

This original recipe used pears, but I've found substituting just about any fruit works with this somewhat general crisp recipe. I always omit the nuts from this recipe, per Ryan's preference. Enjoy!

Peach and Blackberry Crisp
(modified from Harvest Pear Crisp, Cooking Light 2002)

6 cups sliced fresh peaches and blackberries
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/3 c granulated sugar
1 T cornstarch
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon, divided
1/3 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/2 t salt
3 T chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 c regular oats
1/4 c chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Combine peaches and blackberries with lemon juice in a 2-quart baking dish, toss gently to coat. Combine granulated sugar, cornstarch, and 1 t cinnamon; stir with a whisk. Add cornstarch mixture to fruit, toss well to coat.
3. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Place flour, 1/2 t cinnamon, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor; pulse 2 times or until combined. Add chilled butter; pulse 6 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add oats and walnuts, pulse 2 times. Sprinkle flour mixture evently over fruit mixture.
4. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes or until fruit is tender and topping is golden brown. Cool 20 minutes on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature over icecream, if desired.

Note: Step 3 can be done without a food processor by simply cutting the butter in with a fork until it resembles coarse meal.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Little Localvores: behind the scenes at our CSA

Welcome to Little Localvores - a weekly series on our family's first experience with a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Every Tuesday all summer long we will receive a supply of fresh produce and local foods through the Good Natured Family Farms CSA. I'll chronicle my attempts to get my toddlers (3 years and 15 months) to eat fresh and local, healthy foods.

Localvore: someone who prefers to eat locally grown/produced food.

Our weekly CSA is all volunteer run so everyone has to help out with the delivery and pick up a couple times during the summer. In only the 4th week of this new CSA, I was impressed with how well our student leaders have the system down. 170 CSA member bags means a lot of items to count and organize. These pallets (above) held about 6 bags of produce each  - and they were just big enough and heavy enough to be awkward to move around.

We moved all the items off the truck and into a wide open room. We had about 5 people helping and it went pretty fast - off the truck and completely organized in less than an hour. As you can see, the others were all working hard while I documented the activity. Thanks for putting up with my semi-helpful effort! 

This is what 170 bags of fresh and local produce looks like. The vegetarian and vegan bags were grouped together at one end to keep them separate. Cold items were placed in a large freezer in the next room over, and flowers were lined up so members could select their favorite bunch.

The fresh flowers were an extra special surprise in last week's supply.

So many different bundles to choose from...

This past week was another great selection of local items: cucumbers, zuchini, yellow squash and patty pan squash, candy onions and hoop house tomatoes, swiss chard, peaches and blackberries. There was also living lettuce from Two Sisters Farm and veggie patties (my CSA bag is vegetarian, other members received beef patties). And of course, the lovely flowers...mine lasted a full week.

 Check out the size of the hoop house tomatoes!

The veggie patties came from Local Burger, one of our favorite restaurant spots in Lawrence. These held up well on the grill and were really, really good. Ryan is a bit of a veggie burger connoisseur, so he would know.

We used the Two Sisters Farm living lettuce and hoop house tomatoes for the veggie burgers. We also added some slices of avocado and GNFF sweet-hot pickles. Spicy brown mustard and aged swiss cheese topped it all off.

And in my book, no burger is complete without sweet potato fries. (side note: I make sweet potato fries all the time, the kids love them almost as much as I do. I have yet to find a recipe for baked sweet potato fries that makes crispy fries. If anyone knows a great recipe, I would love to have it.)

We had one bunch of swiss chard in our bag this past week - if only it had been more! We have swiss chard and kale fairly often, but this particular swiss chard was in a league of its own. It was so much better than any I've ever had.

We made a pretty simple recipe of swiss chard sautéed with shallots in olive oil, seasoned with salt, pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. We enjoyed this with salmon on the grill and brown rice - a pretty typical weeknight meal for us. I'm still surprised that the kids like it and eat it. We had another veggie loaded pizza this week with onions, squash and tasty tomatoes. I used GNFF tomatoes and cucumbers together with quinoa and some feta for a quick lunch salad. So many options, I love it!

Peaches and blackberries, what's not to love? These went so fast in our house that I didn't have a chance to make an actual dessert with them. The kids have always loved any and all fruit, and berries are their favorite. I did manage to save a few of these for a simple late night dessert for Ryan and I one night after the kids were in bed.

Sliced peaches and blackberries on top of all natural vanilla bean icecream, with a drizzle of GNFF honey to seal the deal. Sweet, simple, delicious. This is my idea of a perfect dessert all summer long.

In our second full week of utilizing the CSA, I can definitely say that we are eating more vegetables just due to the fact that we have more on hand. We typically shop for groceries on Sundays and almost without fail, I run out of fresh veggies by the end of the week and resort to frozen peas (a good back up, the kids love them, but not very inspiring). Getting all this fresh produce on Tuesday each week means we have fresh veggies through the weekend, giving me more options to incorporate them at each meal. Charlie has been pretty agreeable about trying everything, and a taste is all I ask of him. It's getting a little easier each time.

I'm still working on figuring out ways to use all the vegetables each week - I have a lot of yellow squash left but everything else was gone quickly. I am looking forward to finding out what is in next week's bag. I like the mystery and surprise that my Tuesdays have become! 

Catch up on our past Little Localvores posts here and here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

One more step: exercise the whole family will enjoy

**You can improve your health one step at a time. Start here, start now. **

My best workout of the week involved the whole family and a really small soccer ball. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Dear Anne-Marie Slaughter: I do have it all (sometimes)

Photo credit: The Atlantic

Happy Friday and all that jazz, I have work and motherhood on my mind today (every day!). There is a new story buzzing around the blogosphere and various websites with the catchy title: "Why women still can't have it all." I know, not again, right? (yes, Ryan, I know what you're thinking). But this is different and I'll tell you why.

Anne-Marie Slaughter is not your typical working mom. In fact, she is in a very privileged position in leaving her dream job (the first woman to be Director of Policy Planning in the State Department, her boss is none other than Hillary Clinton) for her fall back job as a tenured Professor at Princeton (much of the flack she is already receiving has to do with her plum positions at the top of the career ladder, which I'm not sure is fair - isn't she allowed to whine about being a working mom like the rest of us?). Anyway, she quit her dream job at the State Department after only two years, saying Hilary allowed her to make the best decision for her and her family (she was commuting during the week from NJ to DC). She then wrote the cover story for the July/August issue of The Atlantic about why she quit and why she thinks women still can't have it all.

You can read various interviews with Professor Slaughter here and here, and listen to her chat with Terry Gross on Fresh Air yesterday. But what I think makes this story important and relevant is that she says it's time for women to stop trying to make motherhood and careers fit together (there isn't much more we can do) and for the system to finally make careers compatible with family. I'll give you a couple examples:

  • Professor Slaughter says that the daily schedule in the corporate world should correspond with school schedules. Although my kids aren't yet in school, I've heard enough about how difficult working becomes with school age kids (and summers!) to know this would be a huge change for the better. Important face-to-face meetings could occur during school hours and other work could be done remotely, from home after kids are in bed.
  • She makes the point that 'face time' and being the first one in and the last one to leave each day should no longer be the standard by which workers are evaluated (we've all been there). Instead, in a modern world where working remotely is not only doable but sometimes preferred, efficiency and productivity should be emphasized and rewarded. Hear hear.
  • She also says we need to be honest about wanting to leave the office early and go to a child's baseball game or school play, rather than sneaking out or feigning a meeting elsewhere. We should all recognize the importance of that balance for our life happiness and not hide it away or feel guilty about it.
Granted, these ideas would all be much easier for some than others, and certain jobs don't allow for that type of flexibility. Most of these changes would have to occur from the top down - a change in corporate/academic culture. And these are changes that would help all parents, not just mothers. Today's fathers want to be much more involved in their children's lives and yet the attitudes in the corporate world are just not there yet.

I'm constantly wavering back and forth between how much I love my career and how much I want to spend more time with my kids. It's a push/pull that I don't think will ever go away as long as I'm working full time. I was struck by the fact that Anne-Marie Slaughter went back to her job in academia because she felt it awarded her the most flexibility for her family. And it's true - it is the best thing going for me and probably the main reason I'm still doing what I do. On a good day, I feel like I can have it all.  'Having it all' to me means having a fulfilling and successful career, and a family life that both makes me happy and that I am an integral part of. I'm writing this on a good day, for sure. There are many days like this one and this one when I feel far from having it all.

The Atlantic article made me think about what I could do to further the cause and make work more compatible with family in my own small sphere.

Izzy at work with me, on my desk

I try to walk the walk. I am honest about when I spend time with my family and make a point to let my students and colleagues know that I value and protect my family time. I have two men that work for me, both are fathers. I try to give them as much flexibility as I give myself.  After reading this article by Professor Slaughter, I called one of them into my office and told him to arrange his schedule for the summer so he could spend more time with his kids - shorten his days, take every other Friday off - whatever he preferred. I know he will still get his work done and his kids shouldn't have to spend all summer at a baby sitter's house. My graduate student is a new Dad as of two weeks ago. I've given him a lot of space to adjust to his new role and will continue to do so. I told him to take as much time at home with the new baby as he wanted before coming back. I know these are small things. I don't have the power to change policies (or do I??), but it's a start. What if we all just made one little shift in attitude, in acceptance, and then another, and another...?

Happy Friday and wishing you not so deep thoughts for your weekend!

**Update: Another worthy read on the subject here and one more here, and a reminder of all the women left out of Slaughter's conversation here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Little Localvores

Welcome to Little Localvores - a weekly series on our family's first experience with a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Every Tuesday all summer long we will receive a supply of fresh produce and local foods through the Good Natured Family Farms CSA. I'll chronicle my attempts to get my toddlers (3 years and 15 months) to eat fresh and local, healthy foods.

Localvore: someone who prefers to eat locally grown/produced food.

Monday, June 18, 2012

One more step

**You can improve your health one step at a time. Start here, start now.**

Did you stay active this weekend? Move a little more? Hopefully you got in your daily exercise and also stayed active enough around the house to reach 10,000 steps per day - finally you get credit for mowing the lawn and cleaning the floors! Add 'em up!

We're planning to purchase a couple pedometers and start tracking our daily steps. If you feel up to a little healthy competition, get yourself a pedometer and we can have some fun.

I've rounded up a few health articles to start off the week:

  • Finding the sweet spot for exercise. In some cases, less is more.
  • Here's an update on barefoot running for those that might be interested. I am still not used to my Merrell's, but starting to like them more.
  • Ever wonder how many daily steps kids need to stay healthy?
  • I found this article on sugar very interesting. While we certainly consume way too much sugar, making it the sole enemy of our diet is not the answer.

I'm planning to write about how we exercised while in Spain. As you can see from the picture above, it wasn't hard to get motivated.

Two week's ago, this was our view of the beach in Barcelona just after sunset...

Friday, June 15, 2012


I don't know about you, but I'm ready for the weekend. This week was all about catching up after our trip which is never much fun. We have a party with friends, a modern homes tour of KC and a birthday/Father's Day celebration on tap for the weekend. It will be busy.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Birthday musings: a decade brought all the answers

Happy Birthday to me!

Turning 30 wasn't a big deal, it was anti-climactic. 29 was the big one for me. I looked back at my journal entries around my 29th birthday, and was quickly reminded of why I never re-read my journals. I sounded like an angst-ridden, love-lorn teenager with all my worries about finding 'the one' and waxing poetic about when I might find my true love. Feeling like so much of my life was still missing, I dreaded my birthday every year. What a difference a decade can make.

10 years ago I celebrated my 29th birthday in Florence, Italy. I had just signed a lease on a new apartment in St. Louis sight unseen. I had plans to get a dog once I returned to the states (can't believe Roxie is going to be 10 in July). I was on the verge of starting a new fellowship, with no idea of a faculty position anywhere in my head. I didn't yet know I would take a job in Kansas City and move back home. I didn't know I would finally meet 'the one' online - marry him and have two beautiful children in four short years. Those were all the unknowns that I worried and fretted about. The worry didn't stop me from living my life and it didn't paralyze me with fear. I traveled, loved and lost, had amazingly great times with friends old and new - it was a full decade to be sure. But I could have saved myself a lot of tears and frustration if I'd just had faith that it would all work out. Maybe deep down I did know it would all work out, but I worried just the same. It's what I do.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tiaras, tulle and Charlie

**Hola! Buenas tardes...we're back from Spain! We had a fabulous trip and loved every minute (also missed our little ones every minute we were gone). I can't wait to post pictures from our trip, but for the moment I'm swamped with work and catching up around home. While I get to work downloading and organizing pictures, here is a post I put together awhile back but never used.**

We went to a Birthday party for one of the girls in Charlie's class. The party had a Princess theme, complete with a real live Cinderella to tell stories.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lounging and clowning

Charlie and Haley decided to lounge on the deck at Grammy and Papa's house, complete with their bed pillows and covers. They had so much fun and I took so many pictures. I couldn't resist posting most of them.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

If you build it...

We spent Memorial Day having a big, all ages family baseball my brother's house. Check it out.

It is about the coolest thing ever.

And they have a new pony! More pictures coming soon...