Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Victory is mine: Mustard Dill Salmon

Optimists would say that T eating mustard dill salmon for dinner is a marriage victory. Pessimists would say it's the symbol of a man breaking down underneath an oppressive regime. I say... I don't care! I want to eat salmon for dinner and this is how I can do it. 

See, years back, T was firmly in the No Salmon camp. I've always been Team Salmon, and much like my propaganda campaign for mushrooms, I decided I could turn him. The trick has been cooking salmon with other strong flavors that he really likes, such as mustard and dill. The guy goes crazy for dill from the garden. Enter: a winning, simple recipe! (And a killer mustard sauce.)

Mustard Dill Salmon
Feeds four - or two with leftovers

- 2-lb salmon fillet (wild Pacific salmon is best - avoid farmed Atlantic salmon)
- 8 oz sour cream (small container)*
- 3 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup fresh dill + extra
- 2 cloves garlic
- salt and pepper
- arugula (optional)

- Mustard sauce: Mix together the sour cream, mustard, dill, and garlic and allow them to sit while you prepare dinner. Add salt and pepper to taste. You'll end up with just over a cup of sauce.
- Heat up your grill
- Coat the salmon fillet with 1/3 of the mustard sauce and place it in an aluminum foil packet
- Cook the salmon in foil on a hot grill for 15 minutes
- Garnish with extra dill and serve alongside fresh greens (I like arugula for this)
- Serve the rest of your sauce at the table with the salmon and arugula

(PS: We served this dish with caponata - still a goodie!)

*I suspect you could substitute Greek yogurt for the sour cream here, with some tinkering, if you're so inclined.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Guest Room Complete! (ish)

At some point you just have to call it a day and take the damn pictures, right? Our guest room is "done." And by that I mean I still need to switch out the ceiling fan from the 1980s, I don't love the chair pillow, and the curtain brackets needs to be re-installed wider, butbutbut... perfect is overrated. The way life is going, I'm just thrilled that I managed to repaint. This room is truly a breath of fresh air compared to the mishmash it was before, so I'm moving on from perfect and calling this a complete success! Here's our updated guest room, pulled together from lots of existing items and freshened up by springy green.

Wall Paint - Benjamin Moore Classic Gray
Bookcase Paint - Benjamin Moore Acadia Green
Curtains - Waverly One Wish fabric in Mint Julep
Bedding - Old West Elm with new Anthropologie throw pillow
Art, books, and accents - Stuff we already had
Rug - Shades of Light
Lamp - Ballard Design
Throw - Brahms Mount
Mirror - Hayneedle
Furniture - Existing stuff

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Remembering why (the work edition)

I flew. I pumped. I networked. I conquered.

The dreaded first business trip is complete. And honestly? It was great.

H was fine. We had milk to spare. My mother-in-law got some great grandbaby time. I got some great professional time. (T is still waiting for his great relaxation time.) It was good to get away and be out west again. It was good to remember the good work I've done in the past, to get recharged about the good work I'll do in the future.

The truth is, I love my weird corner of the professional universe, maybe especially because I never really meant to call it my own. Given the bubble of DC and my current project, connecting with other folks in my field and learning from other projects is something I need to do more than ever. And of course, in the constant juggling act that is working momhood, it's harder than ever to make it actually happen. Having a reason to go and an excuse to suck it up and make it happen? Critical. I worked on Tucson's streetcar project way back in late 2007/early 2008. These things take time, as we know. Back then I was chasing love much more than the idea that I'd be at the system opening in 2014. I'd only been in Dallas a few months when I worked on that FTA application - T and I were just figuring out how to live together. We'd adopted one cat, maybe two. There was not yet a marriage, a move to DC, a house, infertility, a baby girl. Those things struck me in Tucson last week, seeing this project go live in a cool little town that reminds me in so many ways of the great one I left behind seven years ago. It's funny how things work, because pursuing transit was the professional path that made my choice to leave Albuquerque for Dallas as practical as it was romantic. I miss New Mexico like mad, but the decision was the right one.

All these years later, this streetcar project and I ended up meeting again. That's one of the reasons I love community planning and transit projects - you can always visit. Sometimes we all need a reminder of why we do what we do, why the headaches are worth it, why the unnecessary drama is sometimes just something you need to work through until the smoke clears. Last week refreshed me, and being away from H helped me see the big picture, to be honest. Some day I want her to know that her mom's work matters to her because she believes her projects help make cities better places to live. What I do might not always look exactly like it does today, but I hope that broad definition will still fit. And even if I decide some day to buy that little bookstore I love in the Outer Banks and leave it all behind (note to self: need to inform husband of these plans first), we can visit my projects together, anytime we like: that streetcar a mile away from our house, or the one in Tucson or Dallas or Ft. Lauderdale, the commuter train in New Mexico, or spots scattered around the country that are maybe a little more vibrant than they used to be - the Lehigh Valley, the South Valley, the Piedmont, and more. The thing about this work is, you get to leave your mark.

As for traveling to visit one of those marks, it was a juggle of course, but not as bad as I'd feared. I timed things similarly to my office, found a few breaks in the schedule to steal away solo, had refrigerators in my rooms, traveled with ice, only filled my bags to 100 ML to speed up airport security (which I didn't even need to do, it turned out), and basically just made it work. As we do. The only real wrinkle was just an embarrassing one, and saved for the flight home. Despite verbal warnings insisting otherwise, congregating in the aisles is in fact still rampant on airplanes. I discovered this the hard way after pumping in the tiny airplane bathroom for just ten minutes to take the edge off (having learned my lesson from the flight over - ouch and oops), and exited to find the bathroom line literally running halfway down the plane. Seriously people? Oh, the dirty looks. (Although they might have thanked me when they realized I did no harm in there.) At any rate... at least my freezer woes are no more!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Windows and paint are my love language

You know those stories about husbands failing miserably at life and romance by gifting their wife an appliance or a boring house item? Agree to disagree, because way back on Valentine's Day, T gifted me something I've been ogling for ages: plantation shutters.


We loved them from the start, but they were really a jumping-off point for all things windows. Classic, right? Pricey item leads only to pricier items. There's this house with new windows in between ours and Eastern Market that we walk by multiple times a week. Oh, those windows. I'd comment on them every time we walked by. Our neighborhood is filled with old homes with very old windows. I love the charm of our old house (1906!), but being unable to fully shut or open windows, having to prop things inside them, and needing to wrap up in blankets when sitting on the couch in the winter? Not cool. So when you notice new windows on an old house, they stick with you.

[Let's just agree at this point that fantasizing about windows makes me super-old and boring and move on, okay?]

We decided it couldn't hurt to learn more... just information-gathering, right? The window guy came over last spring and was pretty much the best window salesman in the history of window salesmen. We ooh'd. We aah'd. But with the backyard renovation coming up, we put it off. Then on Mother's Day, guess what T tell casually tells me as we're waking up?

"Oh hey, the window guy is coming over for final measurements at noon." So casual, but followed by a big grin. He knew. He'd decided without me to bite the bullet and do the front of the house now, with the rest to come later, after our backyard project. Installation happened last week.

Oh, did it happen.

Now back to that "jumping-off point" concept... Besides new windows, the other thing I've really, really wanted for the exterior of our house was new trim. I detest the cream color of our house trim - it's always looked dirty to me. The photo above is probably the best shot I've seen of the cream, and I'm sure that's because of the sunshine, shadows, and the new white windows. A couple of years ago I called around for trim paint quotes and received the craziest numbers - well over the cost to paint an entire exterior anywhere else. I put the idea to bed until our neighbor had a random guy out doing their trim. Random dude could do it for a fifth of the price and half the time - SOLD. Now we're bright, clean, and white. (Hi Eleanor!)

The white trim actually makes me like the color of our house now. We have more ideas to implement in the coming months and years - some paint detail and a new door, which might stay this color or might go glossy black. But it's been a big month for la casa, and I couldn't be happier.

Finally, because any good makeover has to include a before-and-after:

This is me, fully endorsing the idea of "boring house items" as gifts.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cucumbers of days past

One of my toes is covered with dried blood today, swelled twice its size. It isn't pretty. The reason for my disfigurement? Half classic klutz, half defective product, but all embarrassment: the handle of a 40-lb box of cat litter ripped off as I was carrying it this morning. At 6 a.m. While unloading it from our car on the street, wearing pajamas. (Of course.)

So I'm limping around today, kind of a straight-legged shuffle, which I am not very good at doing with any measure of grace. I'm normally a fast walker, weaving in and out of people to get where I'm trying to go as efficiently as possible. Not today. On my way back from lunch this afternoon (as I'm being passed by people in wheelchairs and tourists dragging suitcases), I had a vision that made me burst out laughing right on the sidewalk. (Ailing and crazy? That's me.) Suddenly I saw my late grandmother, smiling away and bringing up the rear with her cane or walker. "Here I come, Maggie," she liked to say. "Grandma Hippety-Hop."

Granddaughter Hippety-Hop was thinking of home a lot this weekend. We had pork tenderloin on the grill - a hometown fave - and a big pile of squash and zucchini from the market to cook. With North Carolina on the brain, I instinctively reached for the cast iron pan instead of my All-Clad, used butter instead of olive oil. It's the details that matter with hometown cooking.

I asked my mom for the family "recipe" for classic apple cider cucumbers, which are so simple that you can barely use the word recipe at all. Crisp and acidic and eaten hundreds of times with family, these cukes. My grandma and my mom would peel their cucumbers, but I left mine unskinned. I have so many memories featuring a bowl of these on the table, often ridged with a fork (as kids we thought the resulting "designs" were so cool) and usually kept cool with ice cubes. Cucumbers like these have heard all sorts of tales around tables over the years, don't you think?

Southern-Style Apple Cider Cucumbers

- Keep the skin on or take it off - your choice. Slice your cucumbers thin. 
- Fill with ice water and salt and let them soak.
- Just before eating, empty our your cukes, rinse with fresh water and pour in apple cider vinegar until they're just covered.
- Grind in some pepper and throw in some ice cubes, and you're done!

If you're not eating this for nostalgic family purposes, I'd mix up your vinegars and add in fresh herbs. Rice wine vinegar + dill! White wine vinegar + oregano! And so on. Heck, throw in feta, onion, and tomato while you're at it and make it a meal. I think my grandma might even like that dish.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday I'm in Love

Hello Friday! I'm looking forward to a weekend of neighborhood relaxation, catching up with friends, and pumping like a madwoman. First, though, a day full of meetings... and some fun links! Stuff I'm loving this Friday includes:

Beyoncé Voters

What can I say, I love a trendy political tumblr. I think it was Texts with Hillary that set the bar for the genre so high (for me, anyway). And now Beyoncé Voters is on the scene, gallantly serving that important life role of "procrastination rabbit hole." Nicely done, Beyoncé Voters, nicely done. (Side note: can anyone explain why "Beyoncé" has an accent on the last 'e'? No really, this bugs the crap out of me.)

Vigilante Cold Brew

 This summer I've become completely obsessed with Vigilante Coffee's cold brew. I love the Red Stripe-meets-JFK bottles. I love the ease of refills, every weekend at Eastern market. But mostly, I love how smooth and strong this stuff is. Locals, go get some - seriously.

Fantasy Hideaway Wallpaper

This wallpaper is so dreamy to me. I picture a renovated attic study, totally girly, books everywhere, a great desk, and a comfy broken-in velvet sofa. My kind of room.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The perfect summer work dress, on sale

The title says it all. I have this dress in two patterns (Blues Garden Flowers and Dark Turquoise Stamp Geo) and every single time I wear it I get kudos. So cute and flattering! So practical (pockets)! So easy (won't wrinkle)! So cool (breathable fabric)! So "did she or did she not have a baby eight months ago." (In my daydreams, at least.)

It's called the "Casual Weekend Dress," which is a misnomer. Perhaps in Boden-land, ladies are frolicking at the dog park in this number, but to me this is an office dress. Fair warning: I do have to be conscious of cleavage wearing it (no leaning over the conference table during meetings), but I think as long as you're average-sized and/or not lactating, you won't have that issue.

Anyway, it's on sale - and I actually bought my second with a (since expired) additional percentage off coupon, so google away! These dresses are all I'm packing for my upcoming work trip to hothothot Tucson (one week from today - gulp).

That concludes today's PSA. Although on second thought, I might need some solid colors, too...

Monday, July 14, 2014


Well look who got a makeover... my little blog!

I've had the same design since I began Freckled Citizen, and while I still liked the old look and feel, I felt like change would be good for my little corner of the Internet. I'm especially enamored with my new header. Fun flowers + DC's iconic landmarks... what's not to love?

I'm still tinkering here and there, so let me know if you see something funny somewhere. Three cheers for happy blogging ahead... and a big thanks to Smitten Blog Designs for my new "face"!


Friday was my last day at home with Miss H. I'm going to miss our lazy mornings each Friday, but the truth is, it was time.

You'll remember that I used to work entirely from a home office. Then we finally opened a DC office, but I stayed home on Fridays as a way to have some quiet time to myself, work without interruption, and often, get a lot more done than I could in my real office. I love the freedom of telecommuting - not having to get ready in the morning, being able to cook real food and prep dinner, taking the dog out for a walk when it's slow, etc. The pace of my professional life didn't allow for five days a week at home anymore, so I made sure to savor that one day each week that I had all to myself.

When I returned back to work from maternity leave (those eight weeks at home honestly feel like a century ago), I kept up my Friday at home schedule. For the first few months, it worked like a charm. Like all newborns, H slept a lot, and when she was awake she was amenable to my multi-tasking.

Flashback alert: Hi tiny girl, peacefully hanging on my lap during conference calls!

Now, though, just shy of eight months old, my girl cannot be contained by her mom's work calendar. Over time my Fridays transitioned from my most peaceful day of the week to my most stressful, juggling two full-time jobs at once - managing an active kiddo and my paying job. No one wins with that kind of pressure.

For our last workday together, I took off a half-day so I wouldn't feel as pressured by my phone and inbox. We ran lots of walking errands around the neighborhood, got dinner ready for a high school friend coming over that night, and then... H crawled for the first time! I love that she made the day special for me.

This gal is going places. Time for me to make some new Friday traditions.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The requisite BLW post

Like almost every baby I know born in the last couple of years, H is on the BLW train. Since the concept of baby-led weaning has been written about pretty exhaustively, I thought I'd skip over the explanations and simply report how BLW has been for us. (I also feel the need to go ahead and write this up now so that it doesn't turn into so many other accidentally-unwritten-about topics, like H being breech and you know, being born.)

So. BLW for us: we absolutely love it. The concept of BLW is completely appealing to me in the most logical way, as someone who loves real food and is suspicious of most processed stuff in jars. Letting H explore food in her own way, on her own time, while still relying on breastmilk as her primary form of nutrition? A thousand times yes.

Slightly out of focus, but totally summing up her OMGexcitement at her first real bites. (She already looks so much younger here - girl is growing fast!)

I can't overstate how appealing the ease of BLW is compared with making my own pureed foods (which let's face it, is what was going to happen in lieu of buying babyfood). I feel like I have so little extra time in the day; I'd rather spend it playing with H, going on neighborhood walks, or snuggling with her dad - not doing extra meal preparation. Cutting food we already have on hand into sticks and ensuring we have her favorites around is as much preparation as we need to do. There's definitely extra mess with BLW, but we roll straight from dinner into bathtime, so it's manageable. (Also: hilarious.)

H's opinions? Around five months she began to take a major interest as we put food into our own mouths, smiling and laughing as we chewed and she saw food disappear. By six months, the suggested starting age, she was chomping at the bit quite literally for a chance of her own. She knew exactly where to put food from the start and has enjoyed a pretty big variety of flavors.

We read the BLW bible (here are the Cliff Notes) before introducing solids, so were well-versed in the placement of babies' gag reflexes versus adults' and the differences between gagging and choking. Reading up prior to starting out helped, especially for T, who is generally more cautious and more of a preparer than I am. It goes without saying, though, you need to pay attention to every "bite" (and we do) and be ready to fish something out if she's not expelling it when she needs to.

Almost two months in, H is super-confident at mealtimes, and I love that about her. BLW really feels like a way to nurture that confidence. She began swallowing almost from the start - she really does put away more food than I ever suspected she would at this age. The proof is, shall we say, in the diapers. Her current faves include chicken, fish, broccoli, cauliflower, watermelon, blueberries, avocado, and hummus. Will BLW lead to a lifetime of confident, adventurous (read: unpicky) eating, as suggested? I'm not sure. I hope so, but time will tell. Even if our only advantages with BLW are those we're already experiencing, though, it's been worth it for us. Our little gal couldn't be happier, either.

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