Sunday, June 27, 2010

(Another) Love letter to my CSA

I love my CSA; this you already know. I've written before about how we tried a CSA about 12 years ago and the amount of bok choy we received was...daunting. But last summer we tried again, and fell in love. This summer we signed up with the same CSA as last year, Harmony Valley, and I find it even more exciting. Usually around Tuesday night I start checking the web site to see what we might be getting in our box, and I start thinking about the next week's menu. Then, on Thursday, we pick up our box. (This year we also bought a coffee share and a sample cheese share - heaven! And, wow, we drink a lot of coffee.)

Although, like any activity done with a four year-old, it can sometimes be more exasperating that expected, I do like to take Cora with me to pick up the veggies from "our farmers." On the best days, she helps me unpack the veggies from our box into our grocery bags, and we talk about each thing as we move it. I love that she will try almost anything while we are standing there in a stranger's garage. Last week she ate a bite of cabbage leaf, some fennel fronds, some carrot greens, an amaranth leaf, and cheered for the broccoli.

So, here are some of the meals we'll be having (or already had), thanks to our box of veggies; I'll put an asterisk by the things that came in the box.
- salads with beets* and blue cheese* (but Chris had feta, as the blue is too blue for him)
- carrot top* and basil pesto on orechiette
- Welsh rarebit (cheddar*), with simple potato salad and blanched carrots* and broccoli*
- cabbage* and paneer curry with a fennel*-golden raisin rice
- greens (amaranth*), black beans, and chorizo tortilla filling with salad (quesadillas for Cora with jack cheese*)

And of course the garlic and scallions we got will find their way into these and other dishes as the week goes on. I'm getting better at using everything before it goes bad, and at leaving in the "share box" things I know we will not use (sorry, kohlrabi, we gave you a good try, but weren't eager to eat you again right away). One thing I like about doing the menu-planning this way is that I start with certain pieces to the puzzle, and then have to try to find ways to make as many of them as possible fit, with as many pieces from the cupboards as possible. And I think I did pretty good, because after I made the plans, I only had 15 things on the shopping list that were new non-staples to be bought (I'm not counting things like milk and eggs and fruit that we would be buying every week regardless). Of course, this is also thanks to two other things: a well-stocked pantry and knowing our tastes well. I may not always need coconut milk, but if it is on sale, I know it is worth picking up a can.

So I'll end with one more food-news item, unrelated to the CSA (mostly). One of our favorite sides, come spring, is a caprese salad. Just typing that makes me think about basil and tomatoes! But, for Cora, it is all about her favorite cheese, the "squishy cheese" - fresh mozzarella. Luckily, she will also eat basil, but for the last two months she has been resisting the tomatoes. I don't even try to put one on her plate anymore. So tonight, with our pizzas, when I passed the caprese around, I just gave her cheese and basil. I would say this is probably the ninth or tenth time we've had caprese this year. After a few minutes, she ASKED if it would be OKAY if she tried a tomato. Of course, we tried to be very nonchalant about saying yes. She ate four pieces of tomato. Hallelujah! I believe this means that eventually beets will be tried as well.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vitality - work and collaboration

Tonight I enjoyed a double privilege: being interviewed about my work, and seeing someone I'd only know socially be engaged in her own work with skill, enjoyment, and vitality. For the first part, we are now just under a month away from the premiere of the opera Chris and I have been working on. We are so lucky that the opera is not only going to have a two-performance premiere in the town the opera takes place in, but we will also have a three-performance run in the Twin Cities. For a new American opera, this is incredible, and we are thrilled.

I know this sounds terribly geeky, but I take real pleasure in watching someone work, when that person really enjoys her, or his, work, and especially when I know the person, but not at all in a professional capacity. The woman who interviewed us, and who will be putting together a 30-minute radio program about the opera complete with clips from rehearsals, is someone I know through a friend and have seen at a handful of social occasions. It was fun to see her at work, to see that side of her - especially because she clearly enjoys and is good at what she does.

The opera project has, from the beginning, been a collaboration between Chris and I, between our composer-librettist team and the producer, and now expanding to include the singers, the instrumentalists, the production team. And now expanding again to include another creative person. I can't wait to see how she puts together the things we said with the other interviews she conducted and the songs - how she, in essence, orchestrates her program.

Collaboration can be hard work. Chris and I are lucky in that we already collaborate on so much in building our lives together, and so when we come to a project like the opera, we know how each other works. We know we can trust each other. We know what each others best work looks and sounds like. We have this now built in - instead of having to build it from scratch while the project is ongoing (I've done that - it can be painful and frustrating when it doesn't come easily or when the partners are mismatched). And, when collaboration works - in any field, the arts, business, a family - it energizes every part of the project. This is also what I find exciting about that happens in the classroom, when things are really working.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Waking up

As part of getting our house ready to go on the market and be shown, we took down the curtains in the bathroom. These are curtains that the previous owners had made, roman shade style things, and it had been a long time since they'd last been washed. So...they tore in the dryer. We needed new curtains. Quick. Cheap. I was going to have to make replacements.

The week before I had, reluctantly, packed up my sewing machine. It was in a big box somewhere in the garage.

But I had kept out a couple needles and pins.

So, we went to the quilt store - not the cheapest fabric, but my best chance of finding a fabric I liked - bought a print for the bathroom side and a solid for the window side. I love the print. It just so happens I bought enough to be able to make Cora a little dress sometime. I don't know how that happened. And that night I sat and sewed the new shade by hand.

That was about two weeks ago. Now, I have itchy fingers. I want to make something. I'm wishing I had some scraps of fabric - I am thinking about making a little old-school doll quilt. Something handsewn. From templates. Something scrappy and sweet.

I've also been reading, finally. During the year I kept up with what my classes were reading, and I would read an article online now and then, some other blogs, but not what I would call real reading. I mean, for the last several years I've averaged between 65-70 books a year, and last year it was far fewer than that. And it has taken a while for me to feel ready to take a book back up in a serious way - a novel, not just a "candy bar" (don't get me wrong, I love the candy bars). But in the last week...I've read three good novels (thank you, public library!). Atwood's The Year of the Flood, Dan Chaon's Await Your Reply, and Walter Mosley's The Man in My Basement.

And, now it feels like my brain is settling back into place. I'm thinking about writing again. I'm thinking about what else I want to read. I'm thinking about who I am, who I want to be. I feel like the last ten months have been about being who I needed to be - similar to the time right after Cora was born, actually, though that felt more biologically-driven, and this more recent experience felt more driven by logic, by what I knew rather than felt had to be done. I'm still thinking through all this, still feeling out the shape of it, but it's good to have a start at the distance to see it more clearly.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A new look

Yeah, I changed things around a little bit. You know, everything else is changing, why not the blog look? (BlogLook? Blook? Yikes.)

Just checking to see if you are paying attention. Or, you know, maybe you are watching a princess movie. Or a dinosaur movie. Or something like that.