UPick Tripby Angie

27 May 2009
12:05 pm

Jim & Emily

We spent a wonderful Memorial Day with the Bradleys, visiting several orchards up in Brentwood where you can pick your own produce (with free tasting as you work!), then pay by the pound as you leave.  It was wonderful!  It was especially fun to have little Emily and Maddie with us, because they were so excited to help!  They didn’t love the in-and-out-and-in the car game, but they were troopers anyway.  We picked cherries, nectarines, peaches, apricots, and strawberries.  It’s pretty early in the season, so not everything was fully ripe, but we found plenty of good fruit to bring home.  Jim used up the so-ripe-that-it-won’t-last-another-day fruit in a delicious batch of apricot-strawberry jam.

This is definitely something we want to do again.  There were some things we did right – bringing water bottles, wearing good shoes, bringing a map of the different orchards and which fruits they have – but we still learned a lot for next time:  for instance, reserve space in the car (preferably in a box or cooler) for the fruit – if you just leave it in the bags, it will be stepped on and squashed!

Try-Me-Night Review: Chiliby Angie

3 Feb 2008
11:02 am

This recipe was a fantastic success! Several weeks ago, the Bradleys invited us over for dinner and served us this chili – Jim and I both loved it so much, I asked Kristyn for the recipe and she had emailed it to me before we even got home. I finally had everything I needed to try it out this week and it turned out great! I doubled the batch, because we were sharing it, but went a little light on the beef and heavier on the veggies. It still turned out meaty and delicious. I used the little “sweet peppers” we found at Costco, which have a great flavor with just a little more heat than regular bell peppers. This week, I also purchased and potted some cooking herbs to keep handy on my porch, so we happened to have cilantro – a favorite of Jim’s – to sprinkle on top. It was perfect for the cold, rainy week we’ve been having.

“The Peacegiver” by James L. Ferrellby Angie

29 Jan 2008
11:01 am

Justin Bradley offered to lend us this book on Friday, with a very high recommendation. Both Jim and I read the whole thing over the weekend: it’s a quick read, and rather hard to put down. I loved it – It was profound and insightful, but in a very real and familiar way. The protagonist is invited to understand forgiveness and mercy through visions faintly reminiscent of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” except that the scenes he witnesses are from the scriptures, rather than his own life. As the story unfolds, it teaches about the Savior’s Atonement and the role of healing it can play in our relationships.

As a side note, I found it ironic that one of the complimentary comments on the back cover was from C. Terry Warner, which called it, “An invaluable, compelling book of hope and discovery – about Christ, about others, and about ourselves – unlike, I think, any other book you have ever read.” Though I agree with almost his entire statement, it actually did remind me of another book I have read: C. Terry Warner’s very own “The Bonds that Make Us Free.” Brother Warner’s volume, while not written in narrative form like “The Peacegiver,” taught similar concepts in its message of humility, forgiveness, and peace. If you were touched by one, I think you will very likely enjoy the other as well. Not surprisingly, Brother Warner and Brother Ferrell both work for the Arbinger Institute, a foundation based on principles of peace and individual accountability.

Monterey Bay Aquariumby Angie

19 Jan 2008
6:01 pm

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Yesterday was amazing! Since Jim and Justin had the day off (they’re both on a 9/80 schedule at work, so they get every other Friday off), we spent the day with the Bradleys at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It’s a long drive – about two hours each way – but it was quite a treat to make the trip together. First, we watched a diver feeding fish in a kelp forest and learned about making seafood choices that are friendly to the environment. We saw two giant octopuses, huge crabs, jellyfish, sea otters, sting rays, different kinds of birds, snakes, frogs, and – of course – amazing varieties of fish! They have some fun “Touch Pools” where kids (and grown-ups!) can actually reach in and safely poke around at kelp, sea urchins, abalone, starfish, and more. Maddie was patient and peaceful in her stroller the entire time, and attracted lots of admiration from passers-by. Emily was just a whirlwind of interest and energy all day. Thank goodness for the kids’ play areas! The slide was, apparently, Emily’s favorite.

When we were all sufficiently exhausted, we headed over to the wharf and had dinner at the Old Fisherman’s Grotto, which won over the other options with the promise of deep-fried cheesecake. For the first time in my life, I had fresh steamed crab. It tasted good, but I really couldn’t get over having to crack open the stiff, spiky legs and scooping the meat out from the crevices inside. The fact that Jim demonstrated tugging the remaining tendons to make the leg joints move and claw pinch didn’t help my appetite for the dish. We also had delicious deep-fried asparagus hearts, which were so good that Jim and I looked at each other in delight and – of course – said, “What a great idea! We should make these at home!” The meal ended with the aforementioned deep-fried cheesecake with strawberry sauce, and a scoop of birthday ice cream for Kristyn.

P.S. Rebecca won the contest for identifying the source of our tag line – check back tomorrow to see her prize!

Vroom…squeak!by Angie

12 Dec 2007
11:12 pm

Cars can be so exasperating.  We think our brakes need replacing pretty soon here and are trying to decide when and how to make it happen.  Jim and his friend Justin were looking them over this evening and it looks like they’ve got another couple of months on them.  With Justin’s help, Jim is thinking of replacing the brakes as a DIY project (it would save us hundreds of dollars – literally) …but just contemplating such a task made us both even more aware of how little we know about cars.

Justin has done home repairs before and worked on cars a lot with his dad when he was younger, but he doesn’t feel like an expert, either.  He said it seems like those who know tons about cars remind him of a club – if you’re not “in the know” early on, it’s really hard to be initiated later in life.  Where does a car-dumb grown-up with no mechanical savvy or spare car to take apart find herself some effective tools for figuring out how cars work, anyway?

The end.

Mikulás Feast (and Try-Me-Night!)by Angie

5 Dec 2007
9:12 pm

Today was wonderful! I spent – literally – most of the day preparing for this evening’s Mikulás Feast. We invited our friends, the Bradleys, to join us and I planned to make five dishes – three of which, I’d never made before! Jim’s favorite part of the traditional feast is the Ham Stack, so I had to go to a specialty meat market this morning to buy ground ham (because a regular supermarket butcher is not allowed to grind both raw and cooked meats). The gentlemen at Kelly’s Meat Market were so helpful and pleasant! Anyway, besides that, I already had all my shopping done, so I could go home and get right to work. Here was our menu:

Our Mikulás FeastA 16-layer Ham Stack – Alternating layers of palacsintas (kind of like crepes) with a mixture of ham in bechamel sauce. I’ve helped with this one in past years, so it was familiar. I made the ingredients and Jim stacked it up.

Voros Kaposzta – Red cabbage, braised in butter & vinegar. Kristyn took over for me on this one and it turned out great! Well, those who like red cabbage thought it was great.

Kathy’s Goulash – Beef in a sour cream red sauce over hot buttered pasta. This is a regular favorite at our house, especially because it cooks in the crock pot all day and is super easy.

Krumpli Nudli – Potato noodles rolled in breadcrumbs. These are a lot of work! I know, I was forewarned . . . but Jim loves them, so I thought I’d give them a try. By the time I was done rolling the noodles, I thought my arms were going to fall off! They tasted wonderful, though, so I’m afraid I’ll be making them again in the future. 🙂

Hungarian Stuffed Peppers – Bell peppers filled with meat, rice, and aromatics. This was not one of the traditional dishes Jim grew up with, but I wanted to try it. This link goes to the original recipe, but (of course) I played around with it a bit. Instead of ground meat, I used kielbasa (polish sausage) and it was delicious! The recipe also calls for “paprika gravy,” which looked pretty strange to me, not to mention huge…so I changed that a lot. I left out the anaheims, only used 2 cups of beef stock (instead of 6), and a few tablespoons of corn starch (instead of 3/4 cup flour). I ended up with a tangy, creamy paprika gravy that we used on our peppers, with plenty left over. It was also great on the krumpli nudlis, actually.

The Cooks of the Mikulás Feast!

After dinner, Jim read us the Mikulás chaper from Kate Seredy’s “The Good Master.” Kathy will be gratified to know that the very same parts that always make her cry got Jim a tad choked up, too. When he finished, we discovered that Mikulás had left treats in the Bradleys’ shoes, which we had set out on the windowsill! Their two-year-old daughter, Emily, loves toy cars, so that was her present. She played with them while Jim & Justin played Guitar Hero and Kristyn & I played with little Maddie (and chased Emily around). When it was time to go, Emily was pleasantly surprised to learn that she really got to keep the cars and take them home! All in all, it was a wonderful evening. I’m glad our first Mikulás Feast was such a great success!