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archive for December 2011

a truly happy new year

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Recipe: chinese sweet red bean steamed buns

This past week was officially my little vacation. I mostly avoided my in-box, Twitter, the Book of Face, and the blog. Snowfall this autumn has been pretty paltry by Colorado standards and so we take what we can get. Last week, we were graced with a coveted snow dump at the local hill in which we christened our new skis in a foot of fresh powder.


Jeremy and I spent the holiday in southwestern Colorado with his family including four of his cousins and their parents. It was a raucous good time and Kaweah was in doggy heaven considering the dog toys, dog beds, and cuddling with her grandma. We were keen to explore the local cross country trails as well as clocking a day at Wolf Creek which consistently boasts the most snow in the state (average annual snowfall is 465 inches).

cross country with the fam

We were home by Monday when the accidents began happening. Accidents as in Kaweah and her little puppy bladder. She had just finished her second course of antibiotics for an infection and so we didn’t know if the situation would improve with time or if this was Kaweah getting old. Normally, Kaweah doesn’t drink much water, but ever since her infection she had been tanking up quite a bit and we would let her out to potty every few hours. Our vet had explained stages of kidney decline and failure to us. His words hung in the back of my mind all week.

As Jeremy and I packed up for a backcountry ski, we decided to bring Kaweah along. This meant we would only cover a fraction of the distance we normally do, but this was really for her more than for us. And she loved it. She acted like her puppy self again: romping in the snow, bounding back and forth between us, shoving her schnoz in the powdery white drifts and sneezing with delight.

flopping ears

patiently waiting for her treat

Kaweah was exhausted that evening in a good way. But the accidents kept happening. Our vet asked us to restrict her water for a day and bring him a urine sample. She looked so sad and confused when she kept searching for her water bowl. I was feeling quite low and so was Jeremy. Of course, when we arrived at the vet’s office, Kaweah practically dragged Jeremy into the building. And when Doc Newton entered the room she was all wiggles and waggles. The infection was gone. That’s good news. The inability to concentrate her urine means her kidneys are now in decline. He gave us a medication to help with her leaky bladder and Jeremy asked what sort of signs to expect when her kidneys begin to fail.

Doc Newton has a kind smile and his voice reminds me of Baxter Black, the Cowboy Poet. He is the best vet we’ve ever had. He squinted at us and said, “By the time you see symptoms of kidney failure, it’s usually too late.” I blinked quickly while my hand rested on Kaweah’s rib cage. She continued to wiggle, her attention shifting from Doc Newton to the treat jar to Doc Newton to the treat jar. “Why don’t we do a blood test for a baseline and to see what stage her kidneys are at?” he suggested.

An hour later, the phone rang. “Her blood is perfect! She’s a healthy girl and we’ll test her regularly so when we start to see signs in her blood work, we can adjust her diet to make it a little easier on the kidneys. Have a happy new year!” We love Doc Newton so much.

my happy girl

So we broke into the champagne a little early to toast Kaweah’s health and a happy start to the new year. I have nothing profound to say. I’ve already recapped 2011 in photos. I don’t do resolutions. I’m not interested in what’s hot. 2012 is going to be awesome because that’s the best option.

fizzy bubbles

Even though the tradition applies to Chinese New Year, we’ve always done so with the western New Year as well. We eat something sweet first thing in the morning on New Year’s day so sweet things come out of your mouth all year. I don’t claim that it works, I just do it. I made Chinese sweet red bean (azuki) steamed buns for us to eat this New Year’s Day.

flour, yeast, baking powder, shortening, sugar, warm water, red bean paste

warm water between 105° F and 115° F

**Jump for more butter**

to you and yours

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

happiest of holidays to all of you

orange love letters

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Recipe: fall fruit and yogurt salad

Have you ever had a fresh mandarin orange? I’m talking about the satsuma mandarin oranges that are in season (in the northern hemisphere) now. The first one I ever had was in California, back in my college days. I found them at the Pasadena Farmer’s Market as well as my friend’s backyard (she had TWO trees!). They came into season right around the time Jeremy and I started going out (do people still say that?). We’d go to the market on Saturdays and buy a bag of these oranges, tearing into them as we walked around the rest of the stalls.

satsuma mandarin oranges

The skins were loose and peeled off easily and in one piece to reveal a plump ball of juicy, sweet orange segments. Satsuma mandarin oranges are better than candy. Throughout the week when we saw one another, I’d present Jeremy with one of these oranges. When he was home for winter break, I sent him a care package that included a tiny box with the last mandarin orange of the season in it. Jeremy saved it. On Christmas morning he woke up, reached over to the nightstand, opened the box, and relished that orange. Sweet little love letters.

easy peeling

When we moved to the East Coast for graduate school, I never saw satsumas in the stores. Instead, there were clementines – also mandarin oranges. Everyone gushed about clementines and I couldn’t wait to try one. Clementines are nice and cute little oranges, but you’ve got to be smoking crack if you think they are better than satsumas. I’m not sure if it’s because we’re back west or because they’re shipping satsumas farther afield now, but we get them fresh in our stores starting in November. We make a point of sharing the oranges when we’re together – a reminder of the simplicity and sweetness of those early days.

the best orange

I always think I’m going to be sad when summer fruits start disappearing. Everyone is cuckoo about summer fruits. But then autumn fruits begin popping up and I completely forget about those berries and melons and stone fruits. I don’t forget about the tomatoes though, but that’s another issue. I usually enjoy a fruit and yogurt salad in summer, but last month when my in-laws were visiting, I tried one with all of the seasonal fruit I had on hand.

grapefruit, pear, pomegranate, apple, honey yogurt, roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

Typically, I will choose a plain yogurt and add honey, but I’ve been enjoying a local Colorado yogurt brand, Noosa Yoghurt. Their honey yogurt is lovely and my current favorite (the other fruity flavors are also wonderful). Prepare the fruit as you like. I prefer leaving skins on the apples and pears, but peel the grapefruit segments as clean as I can get them.

diced and peeled

scooping out the center of a ripe pear

**Jump for more butter**