Who needs chocolate when there’s lardo?

lardo_wrapped

Remember last weekend? Not your weekend, mine. Remember, it was me, locked in my house, alone with three cute yet exasperated and grumpy children, 33% of whom were ill?

From early on, I knew what I was facing. Husband leaving town: check. Baby getting dreadfully ill: check. Weather system moving in for entire weekend: check. I knew that my opportunities for contact with the outside world would be limited; knew that I needed to use my venturing-out time wisely. Figured out that, if I played my cards right, I could get just a couple errands done without having to jeopardize the fragile state of the Wee One.

One of those errands was a trip to the Indy Winter Farmer’s Market. And before you question my judgment, envisioning me, unable to restrain myself from strolling about said market, browsing while waiting for my handmade French breakfast crepe and picking up a fresh-cut bouquet of flowers for the breakfast table while dragging a feverish 18-month along for the ride, let me defend myself:  1) I had not been to the IWFM in about a month, 2) I owed cash money to the good folks at Big City Farms for our summer’s CSA, and those guys can be found there, 3) I needed chicken, and 4) It was the VERY LAST SATURDAY for the Winter Market. Yes, the Broad Ripple Farmer’s Market starts up this Saturday, but not all vendors will make that transfer. So, you see, I simply HAD to go. (And no, crepes and bouquets were not a part of the experience. One friend told my husband later in the week that he had “seen [me] at the Market on Saturday, and I looked like I was all business.”)

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Nourishing Dried Fruit Scones (dairy-free, soy-free, vegan)

dried_fruit_scones

This weekend, my house felt a bit Lord-of-the-Flies-ish. Tim was out of town, it rained all weekend, the Wee One had one of her fevers, and my preschooler relished a phase where he’s deemed the best way to pass the time is to pick up a random object and hit his older sister with it. To say that my house was operating at a level of chaos I’m a bit uncomfortable with is putting it mildly. By Sunday morning, we were all so sick of being cooped up that I knew the best way to rally the troops was to bake something new. So bake we did (after a few threats to can the whole project finally kept the 4-year old away from the 6-year old) — and except for the pieces of dried fruit meticulously picked clean and left behind on two plates, I’d say we all enjoyed the results.

This weekend’s baking (and sanity-salvaging) challenge: convert a scone recipe to dairy-free.

Until you’ve spent a few years trying to make dairy-free baked goods taste somewhat like their butter-laden counterparts, you don’t really realize how difficult that task can be. It’s all about the fat — good baked items (with some exceptions) need it. And many of the available options for butter replacement either don’t accomplish that task quite right, or they rely on corn or soy oils (i.e., vegan margarines) which we are either allergic to or are simply avoiding.

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Grilling meat: embracing a stereotype.

fillet_polenta

I consider myself manly in many ways. No, I don’t benchpress anything heavier than, say, a 5 1/2-quart Le Creuset dutch oven. And while I’m definitely plucking more random hairs than I did 20 years ago, I’m not really that masculine looking. But give me a good craft beer, and sit me in front of a television set during college football season or March madness, and I’m a pretty happy girl. Or take me to a social event, and I’m more likely to drift toward a group of men conversing than a group of women. I’m not sure why I tend toward these ways; I grew up the middle child of three girls. We’re all that way — call it genetic?

But in our kitchen, my spouse and I? We fall into some typical gender rolls. I do most of the cooking, and Tim helps do dishes. I mop the floors, and he takes out the trash. I grocery shop, and he eats what I buy. But when it comes to grilling, he’s the one in charge, always. I literally don’t even know how to light a grill fire. Part of me is slightly ashamed of this, but then the other 99% of me thinks this is a great setup, and I’m more than happy to let him take the reigns. Because, as much of a control freak as I can be, I don’t really care at all to be in control of a grill.

I wonder: does grilling require the recall of some sort of primitive hunter-gatherer instinct? What is it, with men and fire?

Ultimately, I don’t care what causes the preference. Because My Man? He’s good at grilling.

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Would it be strange to buy a house because of the kitchen sink?

I believe I’ve mentioned that the house we’re currently living in is a rental. A spacious, beautiful house with a magnificent backyard — not your typical rental. The only drawback to this house is that we have to be out by the end of May. No option to extend the lease, as the owners are returning home from overseas and would kindly like their house back, thank you very much.

We’ve known this since day one, so in January we began looking for houses. Having gone through this process a few times before, we knew that it would be both exciting and frustrating; interesting and potentially heartbreaking. In the past couple months we’ve had offers on two houses that didn’t go through (both were in some process of foreclosure), but neither of those was particularly traumatic, as they both needed some work and we thought each would be great if we could get them for a really good deal. If not, no big deal — something else would work out.

Now, we’re shy of 6 weeks from having to move out. We’ve been getting a touch nervous. Generous friends here have offered to share their house with us, indefinitely(!), if push comes to shove and we don’t find a place we can afford that will also work for us for the foreseeable future (these friends are much, much better people than we are). So I take great solace in the fact that we won’t be homeless; but I’m also just ready to have a house that’s ours. After spending 2 years in a live-in reno in Athens, then moving into a rental here, that makes over three years of living in houses that just don’t feel like ours. I want to finally frame all the kids’ artwork; plant a garden; paint an entire wall with chalkboard paint. Call a place our home.

We’re on our second realtor, and have looked at many, many houses. But I’ve yet to walk into a place and just think, This is It. Until yesterday.

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My Babies

herbpots

Confession: I have a tendency to kill living things. Things that happen to be green.

When I was in grad school, I had a roommate who traveled for an entire summer. She had a few houseplants scattered ’round our apartment, on tables near windows and such. She left for the summer, and upon her return, walked into the apartment and gasped. Her houseplants were all brown, dried and dejected — as well they should’ve been, after not being watered for three months. In my defense (a weak one) — she never actually asked me to care for the plants; she just assumed I would do it, since I lived there and was supposedly her friend. When she asked, in confusion, why I didn’t do that, I answered her honestly: I just didn’t notice them. If it didn’t meow, or in some other way alert me of its need, I could effectively ignore it.

How I wish I could say I’ve changed. And maybe I have improved just a smidgeon — but I still repeatedly kill a maidenhair fern that I bought for our first house in Athens, 8 years ago (maidenhairs are known for their hardiness — so when mine turns completely brown, I just cut off all the foliage and start watering it again; it miraculously begins to show tiny green shoots, and eventually returns to a state of growth). I’m not sure what my problem is — part of me thinks I should have a greener thumb, what with being married to a guy who does ecology stuff (though he’s admittedly more of a policy man than biologist) and being into other domestic-like ventures such as cooking. I’m a pragmatist to my very bones, however; and while I love art and things of beauty, I tend toward items that have function as well as form. Perhaps that’s why I’m better at taking care of my potted herbs.

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The week in a very few photos

I’m feeling totally underwater this week. While playing catch-up with groceries, laundry, and sleep after our week-long jaunt, it also happens to be a crazy week here, with multiple routine doc appointments, a double-shift of preschool co-oping, and a huge fundraiser this weekend for the school. I’m simultaneously trying to get us back into a normal routine while cutting time corners where I can — and this feels a bit like running backwards. To top it all off, my 18-month old has decided that napping is overrated — this started last week, when I could understand her not wanting to nap in a portable crib at an unknown house. But this week she has no excuse. And all I can think is, please, please, no. You’re officially not allowed to stop napping. Because then Mommy might actually have to start utilizing copious amounts of Nick Jr (“Copious” being the amount we’d reach after adding a little to the television she already sees, the very same television that my eldest didn’t lay eyes on until she was two.)

Anyway, I have photos. And a couple recipes on deck. But today, the easiest to share are the photos, which I didn’t take enough of while in Georgia. The week felt so hectic, there were multiple times that I just left my camera at the house, and other times that the light was so bad it wasn’t worth trying. The week now exists in my memory as bit of a sleep-deprived blur; but I do remember having a lot of fun, between the necessary stops for iced coffee, and stuffing myself with oft-missed and pleasurable food things along the way:

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