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A Day as a Country Mouse

October 21, 2010

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to trek out with two great ladies, Samantha and Ellen,* to the Shenandoah Valley. Between the road trip conversation about work as Hill staffers and pop culture idols like Katy Perry, we also mused about what makes someone a country mouse or a city mouse. And which one we felt we were. You’ve read the book, right? Well, as D.C. city dwellers we are inclined to feel vibrant and alive by all the happenings in our city. The excitement, we say, the energy, the commotion, the people, the news, the events, the hustle and bustle are exhilarating. But then we enter the country terrain.  The calm, the beauty, the rolling hills, slow pace, the sense of community, — hey, maybe this is something we could get used too. Or are there chapters in our lives of each? Which chapter is which? Do you have kids as a country mouse or a city mouse? What kind of country mouse are we talking about? The harvest-our-own-corn-and-make-our-own-cheese country mouse? Or the ranch-style-home-on-five-acres­-with-a-gardener,-hybrid-car-and-15-minute-drive-to-the-grocery-store country mouse? Or maybe we will be wildly success and have both? But then will we be working too hard to enjoy it? Maybe we should marry into the country home. How cliché! We are empowered women; no need for men. And so it went.

It is fun to be in a place in your life with so much room for daydreaming. I guess that makes me a real Salad Days type of girl. Regardless of which camp we fell into, it was incredibly refreshing to be able to feel not only as if we where witnesses of nature’s beauty and autumn transformation, but also feel connected to it. The day included lots of fresh vegetables. We picked mystery greens which turned out to be white radishes, bok choy and swiss chard. We picked pumpkins, apples, and braved the corn maze (maize maze). The real gem of the afternoon was being directed to head up to another hill where the summer vegetables had been abandoned.  We made out like bandits with tomatoes, eggplant, okra and snap peas.

Harvested Apples

View from farm in Shenandoah Valley, Virginia

A variety of squash - one of which is now sitting at my desk at work

 

A sample of the summer vegetables we harvested

The following recipe was one of the many creations I made the following week from our harvest.

Recipe: Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients

3 medium eggplants

A 12 once can of tomato sauce

6 pieces of mozzarella string cheese (because it is cheaper than a block of mozzarella)

2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese

8 ounces of frozen spinach, defrosted and drained

Leftover French fried onion rings (optional)

This is a simple recipe for eggplant parmesan that is ultimately more a testament to what I had in the fridge as opposed to a gourmet concoction. That said, it was delicious. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the eggplant into ½ inch slices (skin and all). Salt them and let sit for a bit. Rinse the salt off. Sautee the eggplant for 5 to 10 minutes to soften. (I’m not sure this is necessary, but I did it anyway.) Place a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 8X10  pan so that it doesn’t stick. Place a layer of eggplant to cover the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle with spinach. Tear up two pieces of string cheese and layer on the eggplant and spinach. Repeat 2 or 3 times – sauce, eggplant, spinach, cheese – until you are out of ingredients. Cover the top layer with more sauce and cheese. Sprinkle the parmesan on top.  Cover the dish so it doesn’t dry out. Place in oven for 25 minutes. In last 5 minutes, take off cover and add French fried onion rings. This gives it a crispy delicious finish.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

*Names have been changes to protect the innocent.

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A harrowing commute

October 9, 2010

This is a story about one of those harrowing experience that you voluntarily signed up for. And you think, “How the heck did I get myself into this?” But I did.

I recently moved from a quiet family neighborhood near my work (read: lots of strollers, runners, yogurt eaters) to the hip gentrified neighborhood much further away (read: cop cars, vegan bakeries, free broken furniture on the sidewalks). I had biked to work daily from my former residence. Total commute time: 5 minutes.  I had gotten to know the capitol police officers at the bike garage and after moving, I missed chatting with them everyday. I missed the wind in my hair, the exercise, and the sustainability of my commute. Or so I thought.

Tuesday morning I got up bright and early, ate breakfast with one of the five roommates in my grouphouse, and was going to take the metro to work, as usual. However, I had time to spare and was feeling inspired by the crisp fall air. On an impulse, I grabbed my bike, threw on my helmet and took off for work. I quickly check my cellphone as I left the driveway to time the trip.

Start time: 8:43 AM.

The primary reason I hadn’t biked before from my new digs is that I live at the crest of a steep hill. Although the morning journey would be alright, I didn’t think I could muster the return trip up the hill at the end of the day.  Little did I know that going down the steep hill would  have its downside as well. The handle bars were shaking, my arms were jiggling, and if I had dared open my mouth, I would have erupted with a yodeler vibrato from the bumpy terrain. I tapped on the brakes gingerly and attempted to avoid as many pebbles as possible, lest I go flying – orange floral tote bag, eggplant parmesan, and all.  But by the bottom of the hill I had found my groove. I was in a bike lane and joined a flock of bicyclists with their saddle bags. We would land at the stoplights, edge out in the crosswalk together, and then take off as soon as the other direction turned red. I felt safe and hip – like part of a visible pack of trendy environmentalists.

It was lively too. In one intersection, a daring biker didn’t heed the stoplight and jetted between cars to continue down the road. As he did soon, a booming voice erupted in the air from an invisible loudspeaker “Hey, that red light means you too, buddy!”  I looked around quickly, eyes wide. One of my new biking amigos turned to me and pointed out the undercover cop car parked at the corner. Boy – was I in business. I was making friends, getting my eyes full, enjoying the fresh air and getting some much needed exercise. I had the wind was in my hair and was looking forward to seeing my capitol police buddies. My Tuesday morning was off to a good start.

Then, things started to change. My new bicyclist comrades began to part ways. They peeled off at P St M St, and K St to go to their nonprofits, law firms, and other places where young professionals spend their 9-5s. And soon, I was all alone. The bike lane disappeared. It was me and honking taxis, tractors doing construction, and car commuters swerving. There was no bike herd and there was little heed to bike protocol. I suddenly felt sweaty and stressed. I was only halfway there. “How long have I been biking?” I wondered, but didn’t dare fish around for my phone. Eyes on the road and hands on the handlebars. Long story short, my positive morning ended in a grumpy sweaty arrival to the bike garage. I was too out of breath to make small talk with my friends when I arrived, and too disheveled to feel good about myself.  I had done it, but wasn’t likely to do it anytime soon.

Arrival time: 9:06AM.

Total trip time: 23 minutes.

But that said – I love my bike. I enjoy riding to the park on the weekends, the grocery store in the evenings, and to a houseparty on a Friday night. I just may stick with my trendy metro riding friends and my free metro newspaper in the mornings for the next few weeks. And wait to find another harrowing experience to voluntarily jump into.

What is it about 20-somethings?

October 8, 2010

In mid-August, there was a New York Times article that went viral. “Hey, did you read that NYT article?”  “Oh yeah, my mom sent it to me.”  “Yes, it was so right on.”  “Boy, it was long.” Overall, it said everything we were feeling and already knew, but it gave us a space to talk about the 20-somethings phenomenon.

At first I was skeptical. It was an older woman writing about the lives of 20-somethings. I was expecting a “what is wrong with young people these days?”  And the subtitle was “Why are so many people in their 20s taking so long to grow up?”  didn’t help my impression. My defensive response — In this economy, it is not always our choice. However, the article rang true with me and many others. If nothing else, it served as a starting point for thoughtful conversation among peers, family, and coworkers across the country.

It provided the language and proof to recognize that we are not alone. That stint we spent at our (very generous)  parent’s house after college, the period of unemployment, the changing of jobs and the self-exploration is all fairly common. And the fact that we haven’t figured everything out is OK. I encourage you to read this article, if you haven’t already. And if you have, we would love to hear what you have to say about it!

Read article here: What is it about 20-somethings? (New York Times, August 18th)

Welcome to Salad Days!

December 13, 2009

Welcome to the beginning of a discussion that has been taking place offline for some time now. Best friends since preschool, Emma Ramoy and I have united to share our passions, ambitions, confessions, and hurdles on the “Salad Days” blog. To learn more about what Salad Days are all about please see “About Us.” To hear more of our stories and thoughts, read on!