Fifty Shades of Brown

We had a blast on our camping trip – but let’s face it, there were less-than-glamorous aspects that we had to contend with for four days. The first one was the aforementioned wasps; they got a couple of the kids, so we had to designate off-limits areas. The second one, or rather, uh, number two, was a most odorous situation. Meaning, no-flush toilets. Our friend P, who, along with my husband, decided to aim their headlight down the long-drop toilet to have a look, christened it Fifty Shades of Brown. That’s boys for ya, because I used those toilets as much as they did and not once, NOT ONCE, did I feel the compulsion to aim my headlight so I could see better. Bleargh.

ANYWAY, on to better things now.

The man tackling the wasp situation

The day before we came home we went to a river, it was such fun – the boys busied themselves with building a dam.

Friendly river duck 😀

Our youngest enjoys a jam session with our friend J:

See? This is proof that I was cleaning those boys up whenever I could ;D

The next morning, it was time to pack up and head home:

“Thank you very much, good night!”

And that was our four-day adventure at Yosemite. The boys love camping, playing around in the woods, and being manly men with their buddies. We love hanging out with friends and family and having great food. And wine. Wine is good.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend!

Camping in Yosemite

We spent a fabulous four-day weekend camping in Yosemite — it was the boys’ second time camping and they had as much fun as the first time, which is to say, A LOT!

Our day started early on Thursday, I think our oldest could have used a couple more hours’ worth of sleep 😀

Our youngest got right into the spirit of the thing and started carrying manly amounts of fire wood:

He also loved helping daddy set up our tent:

Dinner that first evening was basic camping goodness:

With one twist:

Dear auntie L. had a birthday so we got her favorite cake – German chocolate!!!

Friday was Dirt Day. Or Filthy Friday. Or Messy Monkey Day. Or something.


I swear I wiped them down about 56 times that day, but five seconds later they were filthy again.

It was a losing battle.

But the food was awesome.

Breakfast rocked — hot and fluffy pancakes, yummy fresh fruit, and bacon, lovely bacon.

Dinner was delicious flank steak, asparagus, salad, and baked potato (I didn’t have one).

The squirrels were in love with our food:

Even diving into the trash can to retrieve bits of it!

Our friend K made the most stunning, the most amazing (yes, I love MasterChef!) the most refreshing gazpacho. Seriously, it took all my willpower not to grab her plastic container and run with it into the woods:

But the tracker jacke–, I mean, the wasps, were kinda scary.

Lovely port.

Don’t remember much after this shot ;D

More camping adventures later this week!

Payback

I did a lot of camera-aiming at people this weekend. We went to Yosemite and had a great time camping and at one point I turned and my oldest was doing this:

I didn’t wash my hair for four days so I will not be showing you the picture he took ;D

But I will share some of the others later this week.

The perfect shade of blue

My youngest has a dresser I have been meaning to paint for months – it’s unfinished wood and with a good sanding and a nice coat of paint, I think it will look great. The other day I showed him a variety of “blues”, his favorite color, so he could choose the shade he most liked for the dresser. One picture was from a Better Homes and Gardens article on one of my favorite interior designers/bloggers – Emily Clark. My son, demonstrating excellent taste at his young age, chose the awesome rug in the picture as the blue he wanted for his dresser:

source: Emily A. Clark

I love his choice, so I will bring the magazine to color match a shade for my boy, I think he will get a kick of seeing his choice of shade made into a can of paint for his dresser ;D

Also, I think I will add some off white accents to the dresser, just like the rug has, and maybe some brushed nickel pulls. My sweetie is very excited, he wants to go to the paint store and get his blue paint ready, I think this is going to be a fun project for both of us.

Our common ground

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” — James Beard

My dear friend M decided to start a monthly tradition — a dinner party at her house, just for her girlfriends, where some new or interesting food would be prepared. The first time she made Thomas Keller’s fried chicken, from his Ad Hoc cookbook. My goodness, it was divine.

I volunteered to cook Peruvian food for the next dinner, M & I came up with a plan, a menu, and we split the cooking duties.

M knocked it out of the park with her cebiche (that’s how we spell it, btw):


It is raw fish marinated in lime juice for a few hours, served with sliced onion, sweet potatoes, corn and lettuce. So good! In Peru we also drink the milky marinade that is left, called “leche de tigre” or “tiger’s milk.”

I made some chicha morada (I am so sorry if you are Puerto Rican, my cousin who lives there told me what that means over there!) which is a refreshing drink made from purple corn:

We also had fried plantains, but I got no pics of those. Probably because each batch I made was gone by the time I was done setting the next batch in the skillet 😀

Nothing Peruvian about this, but how cool is this aerator?

A fellow Peruvian was one of the guests and she brought some dessert (more on that later) and ingredients to make the national drink of Peru, Pisco Sour:


She brought her own recipe but there are many similar ones out there, such as this one from Epicurious.

My compatriot also brought a Peruvian flag:

At this point a couple of people looked at my skirt and went, “aaaah.”

The ladies (except the momma-to-be, of course) get ready to toast with their Pisco Sours:

Salud!

The main dish was Lomo Saltado, a quick stir-fry type dish that is, to me, the definition of a comfort meal. I made both beef and chicken versions:

The ladies helping themselves:

I was glad to see dishes coming back pretty empty ;D (the big pieces are leftover corn cobs):

But the best part, according to me, was dessert.

I made lucuma ice cream, and had to make two batches because if I had made just one it wouldn’t have reached M’s house intact. Lucuma is a fruit native to Peru, and the ice cream made with this fruit is the most popular flavor in Peruvian heladerias. I have heard the flavor described in many different ways, but the one I agree the most with is somewhere between a sweet potato and vanilla. In fact the texture of the ice cream is very much like a vanilla bean ice cream.

But we did not stop at one dessert – see those round cookies next to the ice cream? Thanks to our Peruvian guest, we also had alfajores, yum yum.

Alfajores, as I mentioned the last time I had them, are a dessert of Arabic origin, brought over from Spain. It is a sandwich type cookie made with shortbread dusted with powdered sugar and dulce de leche in the middle. As with many foods, the sandwich cookie is something enjoyed in various forms throughout the world, but the alfajor is definitely a favorite of mine. If you ever have the chance to try one, please do!!!

I hope you have enjoyed this little culinary experience – Peru’s cuisine is so varied that just talking about the dishes of northern coastal Peru, where my family is from, would take many, many posts, but I hope to have shared a little bit of my enthusiasm for the food of my homeland.

Weekend Bloggy Reading

The rare, but welcome, second wave

A few weeks ago we had to get all the plums off the tree. The branches were so heavy that they were falling down, full of fruit, and making a lovely (messy) red carpet. It was too hot to make any baked goods so I made a plum granita that was a hit with us, friends, and family. A couple of days later we were out making sure there were no more plums and my husband said, “hey, look over there”. I looked up to the right of the plum tree, and what do I see?


Dozens and dozens of avocados, gracing us with a second wave of goodness this year. Unexpected, but oh so welcome!

It does not happen every year, in fact some years we do not get avocados at all, but this year we had a really good harvest, and it looks like we’ll have another one.


More than 100 of these beauties to enjoy and share — avocados hold a special place in my heart (and belly), not only because of all the goodness we’ve enjoyed but also because they bring back such good memories. Back in Peru, a typical lunch for me would have been toast with mashed avocado and a bit of salt sprinkled on top, yum yum. And both my boys love avocados, they both ate one every day when they were first eating solid foods, so I am happy to see these green lovelies, and hope to make lots of yumminess with them this fall!

File it with flowers

I’m starting to get in the Back to School mindset, not to mention the Fall and Holidays (yay!) mindset, so I thought I would make sure all those random ideas I come across (hello Pinterest!) would have somewhere to go other than my brain. Because the filing system there sucks, I tell ya.

My boys and I made a quick trip to IKEA on Wednesday and we grabbed a set of 5 FLYT magazine holders. And meatballs. And cinnamon rolls. And then I nearly cried because they didn’t have my favorite sparkly pear drink, but then my friend J said we’d have some Wyder’s Pear Cider next time we hang out and that cheered me up.


It took me the same time to try and put one together as it took my husband to put the other four together. Did you notice I said “try”? Yeah, I ended up giving that one back to him and he put it together for me.


Then he held the gift wrap while I took a photo because I had asked my oldest and he kept shaking it and after five pics, I relieved him of his wrap-holder duties and called my husband. Apparently we cannot manage the simplest tasks around here ;D


I mod-podged the wrap onto the files then added some labels with cardstock I had on hand. The white scalloped tag is not glued on in case I want to change it (me, change stuff around?) so I used spiral clips that we had leftover from making our wedding invitations NINE YEARS AGO. Mm-hmm.

I love how cheerful they are and how I can just rip a page out of a magazine and tuck it into the appropriate file so I can go through it later, instead of having loose papers all over the place. The binder thing does not work for me, other than for recipes, so I needed something I would actually use.

The other stuff on the shelf also makes me happy:

The candlestick that I got on clearance at World Market. The little book my husband made me for my first mother’s day. The yummy candle my dear friend K got me. Okay, so, weird OCD here, I like the lid on that candle. It has this vacuum-seal thing going on and I just love opening and closing it. No, really, I do feed my children and clean my house and water the acres (feet) of garden I have, I don’t just sit around opening and closing a candle while listening to Pandora and browsing Pinterest.


Eiffel Tower from World Market. It’s a doorstop but you know how many bruises I would have on my ankles if I used that heavy thing as a doorstop? Two adorable chess-piece candlesticks in one of my favorite colors, found in Target’s dollar section. These were $2.50 each, but hello, total score, right?

I am loving my happy little files and I hope you like them, too – have a great weekend!!

A tale of tomatoes

How can it be August already? As much as I am looking forward to cooler weather, it seems that this year is going by super quickly.

Yesterday I got my first big harvest of the season. We’ve enjoyed blueberries, strawberries, carrots, eggplant, potatoes, plums, etc. but this was the first big batch of summer veggies for the year:

So many lovely tomatoes, and so good — no wonder people who eat homegrown tomatoes don’t go back to supermarket tomatoes. My husband enjoyed a thick slice in his turkey sandwich at lunch, and raved about the taste. For dinner I grilled slices of eggplant and yellow squash, topped them with sliced mozzarella and basil from the garden, tomatoes of course, and a few drops of balsamic vinegar. Soooooo good! I had seen this recipe from Giada de Laurentiis and vowed to make this sandwich with homegrown goodies. I think it’s going to be a summer staple at our house.