Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lemon Chicken & Orzo Soup with Sweet Cornbread

We had friends over the other night and I made an enormous (and I really mean eee-nor-mous) pot of this soup.  We had so much left over after we all partook that I sent them home with a quart of it, froze another quart, and then ate the rest of it all week while Elliott was out of town.  Lena ate it with me, sweet little thang.

(Why does she have two spoons and three cups?!)

Anyway, I was thinking of all my East Coast friends who are stuck in Hurricane Sandy and this sounded like a cozy meal to enjoy tonight.  If you've still got power (and can read this) and also have the ingredients (hah?), here are both delicious recipes:

Lemon Chicken & Orzo Soup
adapted from this recipe / serves 8

  • 3lbs chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces (thank you, Emily W!)
  • 4.5 cups low-sodium or homemade chicken broth 
  • 4.5 cups water
  • 1 1/3 cups chopped carrot 
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped onion 
  • 1 cup chopped celery 
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 8 ounces uncooked orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (or 2 T dried parsley)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Lemon wedges (optional)
  • Coarsely cracked black pepper (optional)

  • Mix water and chicken broth in a large pot.  Add carrot, onion, celery, and salt to pan.
  • Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. 
  • Add reserved chicken, and simmer 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated.  Keep warm.
  • Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. 
  • Add pasta to pan with chicken and broth mixture; stir in parsley, rind, and juice. 
  • Garnish each serving with lemon wedges and cracked black pepper, if desired. 

Sweet Golden Cornbread
adapted from this recipe / makes one 9-inch pan
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil 
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Spray or lightly grease a 9-inche round cake pan.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and baking powder.
  • Stir in egg, milk, and vegetable oil until well combined.
  • Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

I'm linking up with 33 Shades of Green and Not Just a Housewife today.  This means those two websites have compiled a list of lots of bloggers who are posting tasty recipes or interesting crafts today

Monday, October 29, 2012

fall color in Sicily

Ever since I returned to Sicily last week, I've been feeling sad about leaving beautiful fall color behind in Virginia.  We love living here, but there's just nothing like autumn on the East Coast.  I think it's the rich color saturation of everything: leaves, clothes, sky, scarves, apples, boots, lipstick, pumpkins. 

Last week my friend Becca mentioned that there is fall color on Mt. Etna, the highest volcano in Europe, which is just a 45-min drive from our house.   Quick, gather a crew and let's go hiking!  With two of our closest family friends here, we drove up to the slopes of the volcano, picnics packed and children in tow. 

Aren't the kids cute?  Elliott and I got to see what "hiking" will look like in a few years when Lena's a little older and we add a babe or two to our family!  These are some rockstar parents, folks.

 I'm linking up with Weekend Update Blog Hop and The Weekend File.

Friday, October 26, 2012

a little Virginia autumn for your weekend

^ "Umm, Mama, I'd really like to go on a walk with you but I just have to figure out how to bring all my shoes along too."

The weekend before we left Virginia and returned to Sicily, my parents, siblings, Elliott, Lena, and I drove to a pretty little getaway in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Elliott and I swung by UVA to pick up my sister Emily on our way to the house my mom had rented for all of us.  We soaked up time together with hikes in the mountains, leisurely meals and conversation indoors, and quiet moments around the fire pit or in the hot tub outside.  Lena especially enjoyed the huge walking stick bugs ("bee!  bee!" and giggles) that her daddy caught for her.

I'll leave you with a portrait of a blogging couple.  This is how we spend many evenings together but usually no one else is around to say, "Aww, you two are so cute with your matching computers!" and take a picture. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

urchin poufs

Elliott saw this photo in KLM's inflight magazine and brought it home for me.  He knows me well.  I'm completely smitten with Christien Meindertsma's oversized knitting projects, especially her "urchin poufs."

What do you think?  Wow or whoa?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

to fix a leaky chimney

what is actually happening in my life vs. what I wish was happening in my life

Well, I was thinking of sharing some fun photos from our time back in the States.  (See above right photo.)  However, at 7:40 this morning (5 minutes after I woke up) the door bell rang and there was a work crew on the front step.  What?!  So early. 

It's okay, though.  Early can be good.  I knew they were coming to do an assessment today because we have an issue with our faulty chimney leaking smoke into our house.  After the assessment we planned to decide on huge chimney repairs vs. getting a wood stove installed in the fireplace instead.  Suddenly, a few minutes after they arrived, I heard a hammer hitting the wall and chunks of plaster hitting the floor.  "Stop!  What are you doing?!"  Well, so much for an assessment.  The chimney will be fixed this week! 

Well, maybe not this week.  But in "a few days."

My house is a total disaster, with dust everywhere, a man pounding on the chimney, and huge chunks of plaster falling to the floor.  (See above left photo.) My baby, meanwhile, is trying to sleep in the other room. I think she actually is sleeping, but that's only because I have the White Noise Lite app on my iPhone turned up so loud that at first she couldn't sleep at all.

Oh living in Italy!  I really love it, but it's definitely hard with the language/communication barrier sometimes.  I only wish I spoke fluent Italian and could be trusted to do all the communicating on my own.  But instead every conversation has to go through an interpreter, often over the phone... and when you're cell phone doesn't get good reception in your house, that adds to the complications!

Anyway.  Here's a fun video of Siena and Lena to end today's post.  (I keep calling Siena "Luna" because that's my sister's cat's name.)  You can see one of Lena's greatest interests every time I take a video of her... oh vanity, you start so young!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

of toddlers and kittens

she stretched out her paws to rest them on my leg and then fell asleep like that

I wish I had captured today on film, but the photo above is the first photo I took all day.  After a weekend where my camera barely left my hands, I was DSLR'd out.  So the camera never took a picture, and even my phone mostly sat by itself.

That's fine.  It's just that today was so peaceful and homey and full of love.  I wish I had a few more photos capturing the little moments.

Lena slept so much today.  Two 2.5-hour naps... what?!  My poor darlin'.  I guess she's still recovering from jet lag and travel exhaustion and she also had a super busy weekend with friends and festivals and hikes and late bedtimes.  She was a happy camper today, though, with a sweet attitude that just made me so glad to be at home with her, savoring every day of her being 18 months old.  I watched her as she busied herself with her toys.  She is very into stacking and sorting things.  Later I found all her wooden puzzle pieces in two neat little stacks, one for each puzzle.

(I wonder if I will have another daughter?  I have been sorting and storing all her outgrown clothes from this summer.  Will another girl of mine ever wear them?  Or is she my only one?)

Lena can't really say "cat" yet ("ca... ca?"  or "dee-tee" for kitty) but she can say "meow," and so that is Siena's name in Lena's mind right now.  Watching her squat down beside Siena and gently rub a hand in her fur, then stand up and look at me and giggle gleefully... oh, my heart just melted into a big puddle of love juice.

As for Siena and me, well... I'm smitten.  OK, I wasn't so smitten when I saw her on my kitchen counter licking butter out of my butter dish, but she is just five months old and part of me thinks of her as a toddler in need of guidance.

The other part of me looks at her as this beautiful, foreign thing--a cat!  in my house!  my cat!--and marvels at her, the mystery of her, the delicacy of her grooming, the lightness of her leap, the austerity of her gaze.

But I think she loves me.  She followed me all over the house today.  She really is like a dog, just like they say Maine Coons are.  At one point she lost me--I had gone into the laundry room and partly closed the door--and I heard her yowling at the top of the stairs.  I stuck my head out and called, "Here I am, Siena!" and she took one look at me and came bounding across the room to join me.

Big puddle of love juice.

In other news, this is how we blog now, apparently.

Monday, October 22, 2012

welcoming our Maine Coon kitten!

Well, we did it.  We adopted a cat!  We're probably the only veterinarian's family who hasn't had a whole passel of dogs, cats, and other animals since vet school.  

I guess the idea of adopting a cat started this spring.  I mentioned it could be fun to get a cat, and Elliott immediately began looking for Sicilian Maine Coons.  We both already loved these cats after Elliott cared for a rescued Maine Coon in vet school.  They are known for their beautiful long-haired coats, talkative and almost dog-like personality, gentle and friendly attitude towards children, playful and personable natures, and their unique looks.

By "unique looks" I mean that they look a bit wild, perhaps because of the manes around their necks (especially pronounced on males) and tufts of fur at the tips of their ears.  See what I mean in this photo?

Perhaps needless to say, Lena loves her!

So far we're thrilled with her personality.  She spent the first five months of her life with the family that owns her parents, and this family also has multiple children as well as two huge mastiffs.  So she's not only used to people... she loves them!  We had a houseful of adults and kids over last night and she was happy to interact with everyone, wandering around between little legs and curiously watching the children's games. 

She's sitting behind my head on the couch as I write this, watching me type and purring up a storm.  Already this cold winter will be warmer with her next to me as I write blog posts or knit or read.

Oh... and her name.  We finally picked a name last night.  It is Siena.  She's named after the beautiful Italian city of Siena and also for the burnt orange color (ie. sienna) mixed into her beautiful coat.

 Welcome, Siena!  We're so excited for many years ahead with you, our beautiful kitten.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Christmas wish list-ing

My grandmother asked me to put together a Christmas list.  Don't you just love it when someone does that?!  It gives you full license to put together all the things you've been thinking about all year!

Here are a few goodies I've come across in my searching, and some of them just might end up on The List:
  1. For Baby Boy: Mini Boden flannel romper
  2. For Lena & Baby Boy: Little Sapling Toys building blocks
  3. For me: Bonlook glasses
  4. For Elliott: Mumford & Sons' new album
  5. For Lena: Mini Boden knitted dress
  6. For all of us: books in general, this one specifically
  7. For me: pearl earrings
  8. For Baby Boy: Baby Bjorn bib
  9. For Lena: Salt Water Sandals
  10. For me: Fair Isle jumper
What's on your Christmas wish list so far?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

at the National Zoo

Last week Elliott's dad, Elliott, Lena, and I took a trip to the National Zoo in D.C.  Elliott has been visiting at least annually since he was 10 years old and he even did an internship at the zoo while he was in veterinary school.  We toy with the idea of Elliott taking a zoo animal residency at the National Zoo, but... well... maybe some things are better left to enjoy while visiting grandparents instead of every day and night and most weekends for three years as a resident.  You know?  

Also, can I just say that I love going to the zoo?!  Multiple times I would forget about showing Lena the animals and just stare in awe through the glass at the fantastic reptiles and crazy gorillas.  I would love to live in D.C. and be within driving/walking distance of this fabulous zoo again.  If we move back to Capitol Hill, Elliott and I could return to our newlywed days of biking to the zoo on our way to church... but this time we'd have kiddos riding on our bikes with us!

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