palisade peach salad

Over labor day weekend, we were lucky enough to have friends from Seattle in town for a quick visit. They’d been to a wedding up in Breckenridge, and thankfully had some time in Denver before heading back west. They arrived just moments after we got back from our trip to Minnesota, and while I do love to make a fancy dinner on occasion, pregnant post-road trip me did not have much umph to spare. But my dear friend Meg is always able to revive my energy, and so we got ourselves down the street to the grocery to pick up some dinner supplies.

You’ve heard about Palisade peaches, right?

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They’re a thing. I don’t totally know why or what makes them such a thing, but word on the street is they are Colorado’s late summer claim to fame. What I do know is, they’re quite good. Just our luck, they still had them at the store, so we manhandled a few and picked the ones that felt just the right ripeness. I remembered a salad recipe with peaches I’d pinned awhile back, so I figured that would be a good way to go. Although all I really remembered was that I’d pinned it; I had only a faint recollection of what was in it, so I made my best guess and what do you know? We came up with a darn good salad.

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We got all crazy, too, and enjoyed it after Willa went to bed. With a side of sausages. And lots of solid conversation.

So next time you want something fancy that takes minimal forethought or effort, I highly recommend this guy. And I’m sure it would be delightful even if your peaches aren’t Coloradan.

Grilled Palisade Peach Salad with Ricotta and Arugula
Serves 4, but easily increased for more

1 whole peach per person
1 slice prosciutto per person
1c whole milk ricotta cheese
2T lemon juice
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
fresh arugula

1. Cut peaches in half and remove pits. Brush non-skin sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill on a barbeque or grill pan over high heat, cut sides down, just until lightly charred. Let cool and then slice into fourths or sixths or eights, depending on the size of the peaches.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix ricotta with lemon juice, 1T olive oil, 1t balsamic, and salt and pepper.

3. To serve, put a handful of arugula on each plate. Arrange peaches on top. Tear apart one slice of prosciutto into pieces and place on the salad. Top with a few spoonfuls of the ricotta mixture. Serve with additional olive oil and balsamic.

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a night out at union station

After all our travel in August, we are trying to settle back in at home and “get ready” for our baby boy who is slated to arrive sometime around Halloween. There’s painting to do, a few furniture pieces to buy, and lots of other misc tasks we “need” to get done.

Also high on the priority list is squeezing in a few nights out. Last weekend, we headed to Union Station to check it out. If you live in Denver, you know exactly what I’m talking about, but for those of you from elsewhere: the historic downtown railway station re-opened in July 2014 after many years of redevelopment. The “new” station is a hub for bus, train, and light rail lines, but also includes several restaurants, bars, and retail establishments. There’s a great article on the project here.

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We didn’t have a reservation anywhere for dinner, but of course wanted to first give Stoic & Genuine a try.  It’s opening earlier this summer was arguably one of the “most anticipated” in Denver in a while, and seeing what “the best” fresh seafood in a land locked state tastes like seemed like something we needed to do (although, given my pregnant state, it wasn’t exactly the best time to go to a seafood place, but oh well).

We lucked out and right away got two seats at the bar, which gave us a chance to taste the food and check out the scene, although perhaps not the same experience in terms of service. The drinks and food were indeed impressive, but our service was a bit lacking. The bartender helping us seemed a bit aloof and when we asked a few questions about the menu the answers we received were short and perhaps a tad condescending. But nevermind that tiny complaint. The food was stellar! To start, I had the grilled sardine with lemon pureé, fennel, and pinenuts. It was quite a generous amount of fish for $6, and the grill and seasoning was perfect. I also had one of their specials: a dungeness crab and mango salad which was phenomenal. It was pricier ($17) but totally worth it. Dan tried some west coast oysters which didn’t disappoint (we love you Puget Sound) and a tuna crudo.

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The seafood was indeed quite fresh. (Although we did take a few seconds to acknowledge the environmentally unconscious nature of our eating choices that night.) The preparation was impeccable. The menu was a bit difficult to take in: they had three different pieces of paper for us to read, which seemed a bit excessive. There were also “sauces” listed on the menu without prices nor guidance on how to apply them to the dishes (this was one question our serve didn’t/couldn’t answer well). Also of note, the clientele seemed a notch fancier than what I typically see out and about at Denver’s trendiest restaurants. Perhaps that’s the Union Station vibe?

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The station itself was definitely happenin’. In the main terminal is the Terminal Bar, which has seating inside, on a patio, and also offers drinks “to go” that you can then sip while sitting in the station’s main lounge. The grand hall is outfitted with new, vintage-style furniture which I can only presume is on point for a certain chosen decade. There are lots of cozy sitting areas, and in the center there are two shufflepuck tables that apparently you can play for free. Fun!

Before we left, we hit up Milkbox Ice Creamery for some salted oreo (they serve Little Man) and enjoyed the outdoor fountains. It was a beautiful summer night.

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I was so happy we finally had a chance go check out the scene down there (always a bit late to the party these days). In the station itself, you can easily see that the redevelopment project has resulted in a space that’s trendy and new, while preserving the historic character of the building. As for actual transportation, I’ve read that the number of passengers coming and going on bus, light rail, and train are increasing every month. But still, being there on a Saturday night, I couldn’t help but feel slightly odd as I saw people like me drinking martinis on wooden benches who had likely driven there and parked in a parking garage (like me also, although we found a street spot for cheaper!). The nature of cities and transit have unquestionably changed so much in the last fifty years, and although we’re trying to bring it back, it often feels like an uphill battle. Sure, people will come for a drink and a great dinner, but will they stop to have a drink before they get on the bus or train hope? Will I? I hope so.

wastefulness in parenting

I sometimes feel as though parenting, in American society, is an endeavor fraught with wastefulness. Even before your baby is born, “they” (“we”?) hit you full force by making you think you need not only diapers and wipes but also swings and bouncers and bottle warmers and so many clothes and pacifier wipes and bottles and disposable breast pads and milk storage bags and more and more and more…Then, as your baby gets older, you suddenly need individual squeeze packs of baby food and more clothes and boogie wipes and disposable placemats and bright colored plastic dishes and then more individually packaged snacks and milks. And toys! Lots of toys. Plus books. Newly printed books.

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In the toddler years, it’s more than your own choices and the relentless marketing: if your child is anything like mine, once they’re around 2, they take wastefulness into their own hands and want to play with tissue after tissue and use three feet of toilet paper for each pee and squirt out excessive amounts of sunscreen “all by myself” when there’s not even a ray of sunshine in the sky. And don’t even get me started on how much she “washes” her hands with “just a little bit” of hand sanitizer. And here in drought-prone Denver, Willa singlehandedly wastes at least a gallon of water a day between playing with it in the backyard or washing her hands for several loooooong minutes. Ok and now that I write that, I realize that must be much more than a gallon.

As someone with an above average interest in waste reduction, this all drives me CRAZY. On good days, I was able to avoid most of the initial pitfalls. But sometimes those damn squeeze packs of applesauce just seem too convenient. And now that Willa is often the driver of our wastefulness, I struggle with how strict to be. Is it really that big of a deal if she wants to play with 5 tissues for her doll? And all that water play seems like it has some developmental benefits, right? Physics and such? Plus, we don’t have that many toys, so playing with water and tissues and hand sanitizer is cheaper than getting new toys?

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Parenting is a lot of work (shocker!). And the little things that make it easier can make a huge difference. I totally get that. And I agree! But I do think we should all take step back a from time to time to ask ourselves how necessary all the stuff we are buying actually is for our childrens’ development. I might ask these questions a bit too often; aggravating those around me with my constant analysis, but going against the prevalent disposable culture doesn’t always come easily or naturally. I have to constantly remind myself to make what I consider the better decision. And I also have to forgive myself when I cave and buy a ton of individually packaged snacks, wipes, and disposable diapers for whatever reason.

Below I’ve listed are some of the choices I’ve made related to waste and parenting in the past couple of years. Most are obvious, and as with most (all) posts on this blog, they’re really just reminders for me. I completely support everyone making the decisions that are best for their own life and family, but sometimes it’s good to realize the options. So these are the little things I try (key word) to do to reduce our family’s waste, but I also don’t think I’m an extremist. I like a snazzy new shirt or toy or book and I love eating a LÄRABAR when I need breakfast or a snack on the go. Balance is what I’m going for. (Although I’m not budging on the boogie wipes or pacifier wipes. Those are ridiculous.)

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Parenting choices to ponder to potentially reduce waste:

Cloth wipes. I really don’t think babies need as many disposable wipes as we seem to think they do. A gentle cloth on the bum or face that then easily gets thrown into the wash seems like a no-brainer. Save the money and the chemicals and the waste! These GroVia wipes are my favorite. They’re so soft and have held up great for over two years. And I honestly find they work better than the disposable ones for cleaning a soiled bum. So that’s something.

Cloth diapers. I was only a few months pregnant with Willa when I decided that we’d use cloth diapers. It just seemed logical. Cloth diapers have gotten all “fancy,” which means they are super easy to use. And for me, the most motivating factor is how much cheaper they are than disposables. Plus no driving to the store to replenish your stock, which is great for someone like me who never seems to be able to keep necessities on hand. I completely understand that there are tons of reasons that cloth diapers might not work for some families. But even if you use just a few cloth diapers in addition to disposables, that can make a difference to both the landfills and to your budget! And there are some diapers that are a hybrid, like gDiapers. Disposable inserts with a cloth cover. So many options!

Reusable Nursing Pads. (Apparently I’m starting with the cloth portion of my suggestions.) I loved using cloth pads during my early breastfeeding days. I had a few of both kinds, and found the disposable pads to be really scratchy and uncomfortable. You’re likely doing a good amount of laundry anyway, and chances are, that laundry already has some milk stains on it!

Eat meals at home. This one is super challenging for me! But, ever since Willa started solids, I’ve made an effort to, at least more often than not, have our meals and snacks at home. I not only think it’s good for her to learn that we should sit down for mealtime rather than continually eat throughout the day (and to be honest I really need this reminder too), but also this makes it easier to feed her fresh, whole foods instead of relying on prepared snack foods which have a lot of packaging and aren’t usually as healthful. This is definitely a goal of mine, not a reality, as I’m sure I could be “caught” several times each week giving her an individually packaged snack. But I try to keep it in mind. (Side note: She loves Nature’s Bakery “fig bars” that you can get at Costco, but I got annoyed of all the packaging. So I found similar ones at the regular grocery in less packaging, but they were 3x the price. Blargh. Lose-lose.) Related: teach your kids to drink from a regular cup by the time they’re one, as recommended by doctors. The sooner they use the same utensils as adults, the less plastic stuff you have to buy.

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Buy milk in glass bottles. I was determined not to have a baby who was obsessed with cow’s milk. Better luck next time, because we drink a lot of milk these days. It doesn’t help that once I tasted whole, non-homogenized, local milk, I was obsessed myself. I finally found a local milk that comes in reusable bottles, so I’m not recycling a carton every week.

Buy used. So many people have babies. And all those people buy baby stuff. And then, their babies grow up. They don’t need their baby stuff anymore. They’d love to sell it to you! Or maybe even give it to you. When I wanted to get Willa a Bumbo, Dan shuddered at the thought of millions of Bumbos in a landfill. Just picture that for a second. As a world, don’t need that many foam seats! So I found a used one through our neighborhood parents’ group, and made friends with the gal who sold it to me too! Hit up eBay, Goodwill, thredUp, Kidizen, Swap.com, or borrow from your friends and neighbors!

Go to the library. Books take up space. Printing books uses trees. Kids “favorite” books change all the time. Buy a few you love, and then go to the library for fun new ones. This isn’t rocket science. (You’re all like, “duh!”) But take it to another level and look for a toy library in your area. We have one near us, and it’s amazing to be able to check out toys for a few weeks and then take them back for something else that’s new and exciting. I’ve even heard that some cities have babywearing libraries. Awesome.

Upcycle. Yogurt containers make great snack traps. Old baby blankets can be used as wipes or rags. And so many things can be used for craft projects or toys instead of being thrown away or recycled.

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Buy gender-neutral. This ensures you can use them again if you have multiple kids. I’ve had this on my mind a lot lately, since I’m having a boy (next month, whoa!). You can accent the greens or yellows by buying more “gendered” items that are specific to that one kid. For example, hair ties or tights for girls. I think this is especially important with bigger items like bikes. Why buy a “girl” bike that your daughter will outgrow and then your son might not be into riding given its pink and sparkly nature. I’d say the boy should just ride it anyway, but we can avoid that issue by just getting a neutral bike at the start.

Read things that support your parenting style. I get frustrated when Willa’s not playing independently “enough,” and I sometimes think it’s because she “needs” more toys. But I don’t truly believe this. So I find articles to support my views, which helps bring me back to reality. Self-serving? Yes. But keeps me sane!

There are so many more things I wish I could bring myself to do, but I gotta keep it real. We might be on the “rag system” for wiping up messes around our house, but I don’t see myself stopping buying toilet paper any time soon…

snowmass + aspen

Last weekend we packed up the car for another adventure. This month has been full of trips, which has been fantastic, but also totally exhausting. This time, we headed to Snowmass for a long weekend “in the mountains.” Dan competed in the Tough Mudder with some friends, so we’d decided to make a whole weekend of it. We stayed in a perfect little condo in Snowmass Village (I love you, VRBO) and the weather couldn’t have been better. It was blue skies and sunny the whole weekend (minus a quick shower when we arrived on Friday) with just enough coolness in the air to make you think of fall. Although…I did get pretty sunburned watching the race on Saturday, so I suppose the weather was actually mostly summer-like. That Colorado sun at altitude will get you every time! We also had fun exploring Aspen, just a few miles down the road. I loved the beautifully preserved historic buildings against the backdrop of mountain peaks. Willa’s favorite part of Aspen was an art installation of three monkeys that appeared in a few different spots around town. She actually leaned in to one monkey and said, “I love you very much.”

IMAGE_3021IMAGE_3027IMAGE_3026IMAGE_3025^^despite a passing rain storm, we had a great time checking out aspen on friday afternoon. we took shelter from the rain at the main street bakery & café, where we had a delicious lunch, and after we’d eaten the sun was back out!^^

DSC04748DSC04754DSC04759DSC04762^^once dan was registered for the race in snowmass village, we found bia hoi for dinner. sitting outside by the fire, we enjoyed surprisingly good (albeit not too authentic) southeast asian street food. the banh mi, sausage lettuce wraps, and vegetable fried rice were all fantastic! the pork potstickers? not so much.^^

IMAGE_3032IMAGE_3046IMAGE_3069IMAGE_3075^^race day! despite getting a bit sunburn in the beautiful weather, willa and i had so much fun watching the race. i got my own workout walking up and down the hills to see the different obstacles! willa loved looking for daddy at each stop, and it was so sweet to see them hug before dan continued on the course.^^

DSC04775DSC04795^^pretty views from our rental condo.^^

DSC04800DSC04824DSC04831^^we made another stop in aspen on our way home on sunday for a quick bite and a stroll around town. such a fun town, full of cool restaurants and stores i can’t afford to shop in. but hey, there’s a lovely playground in the middle of town that’s free! also, that’s what i look like at 32 weeks preggers…^^

the land of 10,000 lakes

Last week, we piled the whole fam into the SUV and made for Minnesota. It sounded like quite the endeavor, but in the end, the roadtrip really wasn’t that big of deal. Willa always surprises me with how well she does in the car (for the most part). At this age, she loves talking to us (repeating the same thing over and over again), especially about things she sees out the window. A train spotting can pass at least 20 minutes. She slept some, and we definitely utilized the iPad a decent amount this trip. Hour by hour, the fields of Nebraska and Iowa zoomed past and after a night in Des Moines, we were delighted to be in Minneapolis.

We spent the week visiting good friends, and had the chance to go up to their cabin for a few days. It wasn’t as hot as we might have hoped for a lakehouse vacation, but we still had a fantastic time. I went swimming several times, we cooked good food, and we encountered tons of wildlife. I slept so well in the dark, quiet, cool cabin. It was delightful. A good night’s sleep when you’re pregnant is THE BEST.

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Back in Minneapolis we were able to go out for an adult dinner at a hip new restaurant, Hola Arepa, and ice cream at Sebastian Joe’s. And if that wasn’t enough to eat, the next day we hit up the Minnesota State Fair. Holy fried food. And big pigs.

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As is the case with any trip, I learned a few things on the road:

At 2.2 years old, Willa’s totally over the travel crib. But put her a “big girl bed” and she’ll sleep like a champ. (Or perhaps she heard what I said about her in my recent post and was trying to prove me wrong with a few sleep hiccups.)

Super 8 went through a phase a few years ago when they were spiffing up all their hotels. I think that phase is over. We might need to upgrade.

Iowa isn’t joking about the corn. We took a detour off the highway for awhile, and wow there were a lot of corn fields. And soybeans. We were listening to an anti-big agriculture podcast at the time. That seemed fitting.

You really can fry anything. Just check out the Minnesota State Fair. It’s also a great place to check out strollers.

Wendy’s frostys are still good. Oh and their fries are better than McDonald’s. And there’s no healthy food options off the interstate in Nebraska.

Des Moines had some of the most fantastic Thai food I’ve had in awhile.

Booking a last-minute hotel from your phone can result in a great deal. Check out the Hotel Tonight app!

Rest stops never appear when you want them to.

Starbucks milkshakes aren’t nearly as good as their frappuccinos.

Arepas are hard to split but probably should still be split because they are super filling.

Vacation is great.

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