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October 2011
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December 2011

make this. eat this. lavish me with thanks.

i like food. there are a few very memorable meals that i still dream about, years later: the kebabs at amalfi in rockland, maine ... the eggplant fries at the cookery in door county, wisconsin ... the lobster roll at ltk in boston ... the steak at the steak place in guayaquil, ecuador ... the barbecue at the now-defunct pickled parrot in minneapolis ... etc.

and now, this salad.

a few weeks ago, marc had a lunch meeting cancel at the last minute, so we took the opportunity to head to ciao bella, home of the amazing avocado bruschetta that they no longer make. sadly, regular bruschetta was missing from the menu that day as well, so we opted for a salad before our sandwiches. the description of the heirloom grains salad piqued my interest:

organic quinoa, heirloom farro, avocado, red pepper, asparagus, spinach, heart of palm, provolone, parm-reg, lemon vinaigrette.

sounded like something we would eat.

and eat it, we did. we practically licked the bowl.

after i got home, i googled furiously to see if there might be something that closely resembled this salad on some recipe site. luckily, someone else was crazy about it, and a recipe appeared:


ciao bella/zelo heirloom grains salad

1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup farro

(sidenote: our target carries farro in little 8 oz pre-cooked bags. you heat it up for 90 seconds and then let it cool. much easier. check your local tarjay.)

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
6 scallions, rinsed and sliced on the bias, divided.
1 cup beef or vegetable broth
1/2 avocado, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
3 tablespoons lemon juice
8 asparagus spears, blanched, popped into cold water and sliced on the bias
1 cup loosely packed, chopped, fresh spinach
10 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
5 hearts of palm, sliced in half lengthwise and then sliced crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces
2 ounces fresh provolone cubed into 1/2 inch pieces

(sidenote #2: i used fontina. just as yummy.)

1 cup shaved fresh parmesan, divided.

(sidenote #3: i used the shredded stuff that you find in the deli section. no one called the fancy parm police.)

Zest of 1 lemon

In a medium saucepan, cook the quinoa according to directions on package. (If not pre-rinsed be sure to rinse before cooking.)

In another medium saucepan, heat two tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 2/3 of sliced scallions and saute until clear. Add farro and stir to blend, then slowly add 1 cup beef or vegetable broth while stirring. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid is absorbed (About 30 minutes, add broth by tablespoons if necessary).

(yet another sidenote: skip the first two steps if you happen to find farro at target.)

Set aside and cool to room temperature.

In a large salad bowl, add avocado and pour lemon juice over the diced pieces; toss to cover. Then add remaining scallions, asparagus, spinach, sliced tomatoes, hearts of palm and provolone. Add farro, quinoa and olive oil to the mixture along with lemon zest and half the shaved Parmesan. Gently stir to combine.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Use remaining Parmesan to top each serving.

and ... voila.

super simple. super fresh. super, presumably, healthy. i made some broiled salmon and we ate it with the salad and it was wonderful. even henry liked it, and he doesn't like salad. (truth be told: he doesn't like salad dressing. this, the dressing is mixed in. it's invisible. so he ate it.)

try it. and then let me know how soon it is before you make it again because you just can't handle not eating this every single day.

why i take pictures

i have a very distinct memory from my childhood. i was probably nine or 10 and had one of those little kodak 110 cameras with the flash stick. i was at some 4-H-type event ... there were horses and kids and snow cones, and i had my camera. and i walked around looking for things to photograph. i remember seeing sunlight on a horse's back and taking a photo of the way the light glinted on that shiny hair. i remember seeing flowers on the ground and taking a photo of the dew on the petals. i remember getting my photos back from the developer and being shocked to see what had printed was in no way what i had shot.

fast forward to high school. i went in for my senior pictures and became smitten with the photographer, watching her set lights and work behind the medium-format camera. i thought, "this would be an amazing job."

and then i promptly signed up to be an english major.

after college i worked in newspaper ... then magazine ... and each time i needed to work with a photographer on a story, i would get a vision of the shot i wanted captured. i was illustrating and writing in my head simultaneously.

and that's how i approach photography now.

when i was finally able to hold a good camera in my hands - one that i could control and manipulate to get the desired final outcome - i found that i was always looking for that certain "something" ... that flash of underlying feeling or mood, or that angle that shows just the slightest difference than the expected. i was illustrating the story of what was around me.

i've done a handful of weddings, strictly favor-only or word of mouth, and haven't decided if i want to actively pursue them. truth be told: i adore weddings, and i'm terrified of them. here's why: i love finding that unexpected, i love telling the story, but the story i see may not be the same one the bride and groom want, and hence my hesitation.

it's paramount to keep in mind what they want ... it IS their day after all ... but i find all the portraits and family shots to be tedious and then i get sidetracked from what i want to SEE and get stuck on what i need to DO.

so i need to figure this out.

sometimes, i manage to make everyone happy.

last month i got to shoot a wedding in maine for one of the most fun-loving, sweet, adorable, in love couples i know. and it was a great time. i got to find my shots as well as theirs. the location was amazing - a camp, a beach wedding, a boat; and the weather was not - drizzle, then full-on pouring, then freezing. and it all made for a wonderful experience.

while the girls were getting ready, the weather was constant in the background, even though no one paid any attention to it.


halfway through the preparations, the groom had a letter delivered to his bride. one that was so sentimental and sweet that everyone got teary-eyed. and then the bridesmaids stole it to read at the reception. (so much for the groom's "tough guy" image.)


the mother and godmother of the bride ... both were delightful ladies.


the groom arrived at the ceremony via zip line across the lake ... complete with superman's theme song.

and then that confident entrance faded into pure emotion.

no sooner did they arrive at the reception tent and the sky broke open. luckily, there was a break long enough to get in some photos.

loved that the group waited for a clear moment while standing next to a bin marked "sunshine."


we even managed to find the couple's wedding date on the kayak racks: 10.11

speaking of boats ...

dan and jen - i hope i did your wedding justice. i hope your photos are what you were hoping for. i hope i managed to create the story as well as grab all the memories you wanted to keep. and i hope the rest of your lives is as full of love and laughter as that day was.

domestic goodness

´╗┐sooo ... remember those couches?

we bit the bullet and ordered them.

they will be here in mid-january.

january. as in ... after thankgsiving, after christmas, after new year's, after my birthday, after next thanksgiving ...

okay, maybe not that bad. but still. we're left with a literally empty first floor for the next two and a half months, and left with nowhere to sit when our families come to visit in the new few weeks and over christmas.

i was talking to my sister last night, lamenting that we'll all have to sit on the floor on christmas morning, and i said, "heck ... might as well put the christmas tree in the middle of the great room. like macy's. or whoville." then i was all, "omgnoway ... we're totally taking a family photo of us standing in a circle around the tree, holding hands, singing, a la the whos in whoville ..."

and she was on board. and that made me feel a little better about having nothing to sit on.

on the topic of having nowhere to sit, though, marc and i started crunching numbers to see whether it would be possible to somewhat populate the front room (the "wii room" in the kids' terminology) and then move that furniture out to the great room for christmas. the wii room has been lower on the priority list, but the wait time for the other couches has changed our priorities a bit.

remember when i played with the front room and came up with this?

i still love the feel of it, but some changes had to be made.

firstly, obviously, we can't have a gray couch in this room because of the gray ones right next door. so this could be the room for my streamlined white couch, mayhaps?

1241-415-SC_HSF_mlove this mitchell gold sasha couch, but there isn't a place to buy mitchell gold in minnesota. (and, seriously, why isn't there?!) so i'm on the hunt for an alternative.

i'm still in love with that anthro rug, so that's got to stay in the running. i have no idea at this point what else will go in the great room with the gray couches, but i can guarantee you that every color combination i've considered is represented in this rug somewhere. i think it's a winner.

now that we've been living in this space for a month, i think the best things to have in the front room wii room are a couch for those playing wii or watching tv, and a reading chair nestled in the corner. just cuz that's where i'd want to sit: at an angle, looking out the window, being with my family but not having to watch whatever it is they're doing on the tv ...

i love this comfy looking maine cottage chair in the sun-colored lucky leaf fabric, and how sweet is the slipcovered ottoman in a bright white linen? both are likely out of the price range for "reading chair," but i love them still.

Mainecotstevie Mainecotgretchen

every good reading nook needs a side table for the wine glass/coffee mug and a spare book, and a good reading lamp. i kinda love this table from uttermost because it would pull in the industrial elements that we have in other parts of the house. and i like this reading lamp from ikea because ... well, because it's cheap.

Uttermostira Ikeabaro

getting to the pretty stuff, i've fallen in love with pillows from etsy seller woody liana. i'm having a hard time picking a favorite, but the ones i used in this set up are the hothouse flowers and betwixt pillows and the christopher farr.

so, this stuff would be on one side of the room and by the windows, but what about the actual tv/wii wall? what will all that techy crap entertainment goodness hide in go on?

this. i want this.

and i will save my pennies for as long as it takes because i love it so, so much and it must belong to me.

it's perfection, isn't it? (please don't think so and please don't run out and buy it.)

i like my little plan. what actually happens and when remains to be seen.

hopefully something will happen soon. the constant echo when i'm working in the kitchen and the kids are talking is about to drive me insane. three lovely rugs arrived today - one for the kitchen, one for the entry, one for my studio - so hopefully they will help dampen the noise. my day has been spent sweeping and dusting and mopping, and right now the floors are gleaming and lovely.

it makes me happy.

and reminds me i need to buy rug pads, because right now those rugs are like greased sleds on a frozen hill.





we kept it easy around here for halloween ... the minimalist, "less is more" approach was embraced and encouraged.

the decorations? a few small pumpkins on the porch, that somehow never managed to get carved ...

the costumes? whatever was fast, easy, already in the closet.

that equaled "army guy" for H ...

and "baby" for h ...

and yes, i took only two photos on halloween night. and they were taken at the last second before each child ran out the door to trick-or-treat with friends. and i was okay with that. so very minimalist.

we're going to have to step up our game next year, though. this is a photo harper's friend's mom snapped of the girls at a neighbor's house:

and the vast majority of the houses looked like that.


so not minimal, but so very fun. trick-or-treating was actually pretty awesome out here ... everyone was into it, the neighbors were all walking with the kids and chatting, the houses were all decked out and fun. so great.

also falling within our "minimal" mindset these days:

the dining room ...

yes, those are folding tables. the new chairs are here, the table ... not so much. but it will do.

at least the table is white. it works.

and also minimal? harper's face:

she's down one more tooth as of last night. she somehow whacked it out of her mouth and sent it flying. as she retold the story, she said, "the first tooth i swallowed, and the second tooth i flung!"

her new source of pride ... swallowing and flinging teeth.

on the not-so-minimal side, did i ever mention the old metal school locker shelves and baskets i found on craigslist back in august? no? well ... i found an old metal school locker shelf and baskets on craigslist back in august. it is FINALLY here, cleaned up, and in the house. can't wait to play with it.

oh, and in the minimal posting of the past few weeks, i failed to acknowledge our 15th anniversary and marc's birthday. we had a date night on our anniversary, which was good, and marc's birthday was relaxing and just a nice family day. both were much needed.

love you, mchotness.