Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pear, almond and feta salad


Here is my favorite salad.  When I was pregnant I wanted to eat it every day.  Now, I still want to eat it every day. :)

My sister-in-law Allison has made some awesome salads for us at her house, which I've tried to imitate but never with total success.  She taught me how to make sugared almonds and also the salad wizardry of fruit + nut + cheese.  When I finally tried this dressing recipe I knew my salad dreams were coming true at last!  So, this salad can be easily customized with what you have on hand.  I tried it with strawberries recently instead of pears, and it was good, and the original recipe calls for bleu cheese and walnuts (that seems to be a common combination of flavors).  But I think I love it most with a slightly firm pear, almonds, and salty feta.  The dressing is a vinaigrette, not very sweet, but perfectly suited to the whole.

At our house, this salad (with muffins) is a perfectly acceptable summer dinner.  Thank goodness!

Pear and feta salad with sugared almonds

Spring mix or similar mix of greens
2 pears
1/2 c. crumbled feta (or bleu cheese)
1/2 c. almonds, chopped
1/2-1 c. sugar

Place almonds in frying pan and sprinkle sugar over the top.  Cook over medium heat until sugar starts to melt and caramelize, adding more sugar as needed.  Stir almonds frequently to coat with the melted sugar, and remove from heat when sugar turns golden brown.  Let cool, then break up into pieces (they will stick together, but they break apart easily).

Dressing:
1/2 c. olive oil
2 T. balsamic vinegar
2 t. Dijon mustard or ground mustard
1 heaping teaspoon sugar
1/2 t. salt

Combine all ingredients in small bowl.  Whisk until combined.
Slice pears (long slices look nicer, but I dice them to make them easier for the kids to eat) and place on top of salad greens.  Sprinkle with feta and candied almonds, then pour dressing on top.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bright July flowers

It has been quite hot lately and all the nice green mountains are starting to turn brown.  I love the flowers that come out this time of year, so bright and sturdy.  It amazes me that anything can flourish in such hot weather! Although I suppose we are not THAT hot, as climates go.
Delphiniums are some of my favorites, and these are such a deep blue!  Gorgeous.  The ones in my yard are a wan-looking sort of indigo.

Serious (and a bit disapproving?)

Bright!

I like these flowers that look like fireworks . . . 

and does it surprise anyone that they inspired Seb to BE a firework?

Sad sitters-in-time-out (it's not all fun and games around here).  
(Sometimes their sad expressions make me laugh; is that so wrong?)

On a happier note, fwuffball bush!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pretty

She's so cute here, but I don't know why she has her hand up like that

After reading this article I have done a lot of thinking about what I do, or should, talk about with my nieces and others.  It's true that "you look so pretty" or "I love your dress" is an easy conversation starter, and it's also true that it's probably not the best topic you could choose.  I appreciated many of her points in the article, especially about being a lone voice helping girls understand that they are more than simply "pretty."  Seems like great advice when talking to girls you don't know very well.

What about daughters, though?  My mom and dad did an excellent job of helping me believe I had value beyond my appearance.  I can't count the number of times my dad emphasized that math and the sciences were as accessible and valuable to girls as to boys.  I certainly felt that my mind and personality were my most important assets, and yet, like everyone, I wasn't able to escape the feeling of wanting to be pretty, and never feeling that I was.  (I never found much comfort in people telling me, "Boys probably aren't asking you out just because they're intimidated by you."  Huh.)

I know that girls are constantly bombarded with expectations of beauty, and of course I want to help my girls expand their view beyond that.  (And my boys too!)  But do you think that means I should avoid talking about their appearance at all?  I am always telling Daisy and Juni they look pretty, because they DO, and I just can't help myself!  They are so darling and cute and it's so fun to see them in their pretty dresses!  I also tell my boys that they are handsome, and I mean it.  As long as I ALSO emphasize their other traits and capabilities, is that okay?  My parents told me I was pretty.  I don't think it made me immune to feelings of insecurity as an adolescent (and adult), but it seems like it probably helped.  But since the media now emphasizes beauty so MUCH, do I need to spend all my time as a parent just counteracting that?  Does any praise of appearance send the wrong message?  What do you think?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Thriving

"Junipers are very tolerant of drought and thrive in all areas"

I know it's too early to tell what she's really going to be like, but I can't help already feeling that she is someone exceptional.  I'm afraid when I describe her as calm and peaceful that people might think she's one of those fat, placid babies who stare at you vacantly while drooling, but she isn't like that at all.  Ever since the moment she was born, she has locked onto the world with her bright, alert, interested eyes. She rarely gets alarmed, and like her namesake she seems to thrive in all conditions (even while being carted around precariously by brothers, or with her head falling off my lap because I'm leaning over to help Daisy with something, or while tucked under one arm while Sam roasts marshmallows with the other, for example).  She takes everything in stride.  I love her serene, clear-eyed gaze.
And it's not just that she's alert---she's so eager to connect with people!  (You won't believe it, but she first smiled at us when she was only a week old!)  I I especially love the way her calm gaze gives way to delighted smiles and gurgles when we talk to her.  Like this:
I know I'm a doting parent, but she is special, this girl.  We love her so much!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Powerful

Fall (normal water levels) and this Spring

As we don't live in the flood plain, we have been able to watch this year's water levels with more interest than nervousness.  Of course getting close to the water does make me nervous and we kept the kids far, far away.  But we did enjoy watching, from a safe distance, the sheer power of water + gravity.  This is Big Cottonwood Creek (which I don't believe actually flooded) a few weeks ago.  For comparison, look at the following pictures of the same creek last Spring (which was also a very high water year; impressively high, we thought at the time) versus now.
Turbulence---brown and white

Air full of spray

The air was misty all around, like at Niagara Falls

Seb's squinched-up shoulders=a sure sign of excitement
Churning water.  It's mesmerizing.  Terrifying, too, if you allow yourself to think about it (I tried not to imagine anybody falling in, but was unsuccessful)


Boys, off on an adventure

Two small friends, unable to look at the camera simultaneously

Calm, and apparently unafraid that someone might mistake her for a marshmallow