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A typical Austin weekend

March 13, 2005
photo by justin

Whew! We tired ourselves out this weekend, traveling anywhere our little feet would take us. Our weekend really started Thursday night, with a dinner on our tiny patio with Chad and Lindsay. I made Portobello Mushroom Fajitas (from Cooking Light’s January 2005 issue) with cilantro black beans and whole-wheat tortillas. Lindsay brought an apple crisp made with oatmeal and Cabot cheddar cheese that was stellar.

Friday evening Chad and Justin took a bike ride while Lindsay and I cooked dinner, a fava bean stew, steamed vegetables, and multi-grain bread from Central Market. Afterward, we took a leisurely stroll through their neighborhood, stopping to marvel at an entire skate park set up in a neighbor’s backyard.

Saturday morning started with a walk to the downtown farmer’s market, where we met up with Andy (pictured above, with the awesome beard), and bought a baguette from Texas French Bread and some artisan string cheese. We walked back to our place, and I set off for a baby shower at Leti’s (see previous post for a full review) while Justin hiked the Barton Creek greenbelt and went for a swim at Sculpture Falls with Chad, Lindsay, and Andy.

Sunday morning we were up early to drive out to Rocky Hill Ranch, where the boys set off on a mountain bike trail, and Lindsay and I hiked through the pines. Then it was back to Austin for a walk to the Zilker Kite Festival, where there were hundreds of kites floating in the sky (and a few diving dangerously). We walked through the Town Lake trail back up to 6th Street for a stop at Amy’s Ice Cream (for you foodies out there, I had dark chocolate ice cream with Kit Kats, Justin had “The Rico”, which was Mexican vanilla ice cream with graham crackers, strawberries, and cinnamon, Lindsay had Mexican vanilla frozen yogurt with strawberries, and Chad tried the Grasshoppa flavor). It’s been a long, wonderful, sun-drenched weekend (and I have sunburned shoulders to prove it).

Hope yours was full of sun, too!

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Not your mama’s baby shower…

March 13, 2005

I was lucky enough to be invited to a baby shower hosted by my friend Leti this weekend. Now, most of the time, I would dread baby showers or wedding showers or anything that might be uncomfortable, where I’m surrounded by people I don’t know, eating pastel mints and canned peanuts. But in the few hours before the 2:00 shower, my husband asked me whether I had eaten enough to sustain me until dinner time, and I answered, “Uh, hello, Leti’s throwing this shower?!” To which he responded, “Oh. Right.”

I will be giving you the lowdown on what was served at the shower (of course, there were games, and gifts, but the food’s what’s important, right?), but let me preface it first by telling you a little bit about Leti. Leti is the queen of celebrations, the most generous giver of gifts, and the most meticulous party planner I know. She will wrap a present so beautifully you feel sad to open it. She will make her own gift cards, garnish the simplest of lunches, and make a gift bag worth receiving.

I was excited to receive the hand-made invitation (pictured above), and couldn’t wait to see what was in store. The food table was decorated with two huge glass vases full of a colorful array of flowers, and whole limes were floating in the water between the stems. The table was covered with food: tiny skewers of chicken covered in spices (these I cannot vouch for, since I didn’t taste them, though I was tempted), crunchy cheese bread straws, little sandwiches filled with flavored cheeses and meats, marinated fresh mozzarella and grape tomatoes with fresh basil, whole seedless grapes tossed with yogurt, cinnamon, and walnuts, crudites cups (carrot, celery, and cucumber sticks with skewers of grape tomatoes standing upright in a tiny cup with dip at the bottom), and pretzel kisses (pretzels topped with melted chocolate and candies). Did I miss anything? Oh, and cake. I was bummed that I didn’t bring my camera to share the beautiful food with you all.

Aaaah, a party at Leti’s is a party worth attending, even if you have to bring a baby gift.

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Dinner of champions

March 11, 2005
photo by justin

So you’re poor, you say? Can’t afford elaborate meals or tons of veggies? No time to cook? Looking for something fast, healthy, and yummy?

There are so many quick and easy meals you can prepare with things you have in your pantry. Take this meal, for example. We had a bit of angel hair left in the box, so I boiled it up and tossed it with a little olive oil and freshly ground black pepper. While that was cooking, I heated a little olive oil in a pan, added some chopped garlic (one or two cloves) and some sliced zucchini (I used two, halved lengthwise and sliced into moon-shapes). I cooked that for a bit, until the zucchini started to get softer with lovely golden edges. Then I added one can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained, and one can of basil and garlic flavored diced tomatoes, stirred it all up, and let it simmer while the pasta cooked. When everything is hot and ready, just plate it up, sprinkle some fresh grated Parmesan cheese on top, and serve with a simple salad (we like field greens or spinach, whole peeled carrots, sliced tomatoes, and some dressing). Voila! It’s a 30-minute meal that’s also inexpensive.

We vary this recipe a lot…if we have fresh mushrooms or maybe bell pepper, we’ll throw that in with the zucchini. If we don’t have chickpeas, we might leave them out or try another bean (like cannellini beans). If we don’t feel like having pasta, we might saute up some rounds of polenta.

It’s a meatless meal that still has some protein from the beans, tons of veggies, and very little added fat (good fats from the olive oil, and a little bit from the cheese). You could use whole-wheat pasta to boost up the fiber, or try it with whole-wheat couscous, brown rice, or even bulgur.

Just an idea in case you were pondering what to make for dinner…

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Let freedom ring…

March 10, 2005
photo by justin

The past week has been full of changes for me. I left my job as a community nutritionist, which I had started one year ago (to the day). I decided that I was ready for a change, for a new challenge, and possibly even a new career path. I was tired of being the lone nutritionist in a sea of patients, most of whom preferred not to use the nutrition advice I had given them. It was difficult to face each day full of unsuccessful attempts at improving patients’ health, and hour after hour of no-shows.

So I accepted a job at a vet clinic just a few blocks from my home. I was so excited…the place seemed fun, full of fuzzy animals and friendly people, and hey, it was just a 5 minute walk from home! I was told I could make my own schedule, work as many hours as I wanted, and still make a fairly good hourly wage. Sounded perfect.

Too bad the vet clinic was run by Dr. Drill Sergeant. I spent one day in the clinic and knew it was not something I could subject myself to on a daily basis. The policy manual dictated the correct dialogue to use when addressing the Drill Sergeant: “Dr. Drill Sergeant, sir, your 9:00 appointment is here.” There were policies on using “sir” or “maam” when speaking to supervisors, and rules about which way the paper clip should be attached to the paper (big loop to the front, directly over the third line). The Drill Sergeant preferred the office to be neat and tidy (and would reprimand staff for allowing a smudge of hi-liter to be on the desk). He never acknowledged my existence, and I learned from other receptionists that he had yet to address them at all, though they had worked there for weeks. There were horror stories about his “structured” environment, and when he entered the area, someone would say, “the Drill Sergeant is here, sit up straight!”

Needless to say, it was not a fun place to be.

So, as of today, I am jobless. And somehow, it feels satisfying. A little bit of time to rest, think about things, figure out exactly what my brain is up to, and smell the flowers. I’m sure I’ll find something else, and I know I can always do private consulting. But for now, in the words of my sister, perhaps it was destiny that I left my old job, hated my new job, now have no job, and can actually just be.

For all of you out there who love what you do, cheers.

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Why I love Austin

March 8, 2005
photo by justin

You’ve just gotta love a city that’s so big, there are a zillion places to eat and shop, so small that it’s easy to get around and has a strong sense of community, and so perfectly located that you can find beautiful hike and bike trails just a few minutes from where you live, no matter where you live.

Justin took this photo at the Barton Creek greenbelt, just a short drive from our apartment.

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