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spring things

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Recipe: baingan bharta (indian mashed eggplant)

Year after year, I look forward to those wonderful events that reliably happen in spring. This wackadoo teeter totter between snow storms and sunny days. The planters full of daffodils and tulips on Pearl Street in Boulder. A chorus of red-winged blackbirds by the lake that fills your ears when you run (or walk) by. Just this morning, we watched a yearling moose (following his mama) pass through the neighborhood, stopping to nibble on the young aspens in our yard.


a double daffodil on the flats

snowing and moosing



Spring is also when I have various medical appointments. It’s been seven and a half years since my breast cancer diagnosis. After all of the surgeries, scans, chemo, radiation, blood draws, ER visits, and more surgeries, the aftermath seemed pretty tame. Managing lingering side effects – some temporary, some permanent – and getting on with my life, I felt that returning to normal was like winning the jackpot. And for the most part, life is normal and good. The further in time I drift from my diagnosis, the less cancer nags at the back of my mind. Dad always touts the power of positive thinking, but truth be told, that constant fear hovering over my shoulder for the first few years after treatment made me feel like I had failed. I couldn’t distinguish between my scar tissue and a possible tumor. Was that cough indicative of metastasized cancer? What caused that sharp pain in my side? While the intensity of my worries has faded considerably, it is always there like a low-level noise creeping in the corner of the room, growing louder when the night is still and dark.

the waiting room



I check in with oncology on a regular basis. It used to be every 6 months and has now transitioned to once a year. It’s bittersweet. When I walk in, I’m greeted by familiar smiles – all of the wonderful staff and nurses who cared for me during the infusions, gave me advice over the phone when emergencies arose, and continue to put in orders for my annual mammograms and MRIs. These are some of the nicest people you will ever encounter. This last time – yesterday – I exchanged hugs with each of them. While one asked how long it has been since I finished chemo, another was smiling and touching my ponytail. I typically ask local businesses if things have been busy, because busy is good for business. But it’s sad when oncology says they’ve been busy. They’re always busy. Cancer sucks. Eventually my oncologist bustles into the exam room like Santa Claus on Christmas doling out handshakes and hugs. He is the very best. Behind the closed door, Jeremy and I can update him with observations and questions interspersed with genuinely friendly conversation and laughs. He allays most of my concerns and follows up on the rest.

MRI in a week. Let’s get an X-ray while you’re here for the MRI and do blood labs after you’re done here today. How was that colonoscopy?

The colonoscopy was fine because I don’t remember any of it. The prep beforehand was unpleasant, but nothing compared to chemo. My instruction sheet said to stop eating all seeds, nuts, whole grains, and beans five days prior to the procedure. I thought that would be easy, but it was harder than I had anticipated. Everything in our kitchen seemed to have nuts, seeds, whole grains, or beans. The bummer was that I had made baingan bharta, a lovely Indian mashed eggplant dish, the day before. I could only stare at the leftovers in the refrigerator since the tomatoes and eggplants had loads of seeds.


onion, tomatoes, jalapeño, eggplant, lime, cilantro, vegetable oil, turmeric, salt, garlic, garam masala

prick the eggplants with a sharp knife

char the eggplants

let cool



**Jump for more butter**

this little piggy

Monday, April 6th, 2015

Recipe: this little piggy pizza

So many wonderful things happened this past weekend, like almost a foot of new snow on the local ski hill Friday morning. Rest assured, I did get my fresh tracks first thing in the morning. The new snow also meant that we could do a full moon ski rather than a full moon hike that evening. Everything seemed to go in our favor that night: fresh snow, no winds (well, a very light breeze), full coverage on the road, clear skies. Almost unheard of for our area.


banjo waits for erin to put his dog booties on before bounding out to romp in the snow

the full moon emerges above a bank of clouds in the east as we ski west

venus (center left) setting over the majestic indian peaks



We got home from the full moon ski around 10:30 pm and ate dinner at 11:00 pm. I was in bed after midnight and set my alarm for a few hours later as there was that total lunar eclipse to catch. When it’s late and I’m tired, I sometimes question if I want to get up in the middle of the night to shoot the eclipse. I figure, if I can and if the conditions are good (they were excellent), then it’s definitely worth seeing. I don’t think I ever tire of watching these phenomena that relay just how small we really are. Besides, I’ve loved watching the moon ever since I was a little girl. Some things never change. Jeremy even got up with my alarm and brought me hot cider while I stood outside following the eclipse’s progress. We watched her set behind the Continental Divide, still eclipsed, as the eastern horizon began to glow warm with orange and gold.

entering totality (blood moon)

blood moon setting over the mountains



The 6 inches of snow around our house melted in no time flat. Warm weather returned and I’ve notice those fuzzy aspen catkins blowing around on our deck. We moved the deck furniture back outside from its hibernation in the basement and our windows have been open every afternoon to let the mountain air cool the house down. Instead of an afternoon ski tour, we’re trail running the local trails to scout out conditions (mostly melted, still some snow) and visit with our local flora and fauna.

pasque flowers are coming up

this hungry moose was chomping away on young aspen trees



Over the weekend, all of our neighbors’ yards or decks were filled with happy dogs wagging their tails with noses in the air sniffing the aromas wafting from smoking grills. We contributed our fair share of grilled deliciousness to the local atmosphere, too. Although we weren’t grilling giant hunks of meat, our pizzas still paid proper homage to the pig. Vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, flexitarians – look away! I call the pizza This Little Piggy.

pizza dough, pizza sauce, barbecue sauce, olive oil, salt, pepper, mozzarella, caramelized onions, pancetta, prosciutto, italian sausage, bacon, chorizo

mix the barbecue sauce with the pizza sauce

slice the chorizo thin

chop the bacon



**Jump for more butter**

spraang break!

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

Recipe: asian chicken salad with ginger dressing

It’s springtime in the Rockies and it also happens to be spring break for a lot of schools. We’re in Crested Butte to enjoy what remains of both the mountain and nordic ski seasons. The high, strong sun has been delivering a pounding to the snow – visibly shrinking it by inches each day. The birds are back feeding off the patches of bare ground and filling the air with the sweet chorus of bird songs. The Slate River flows faster and fuller. If we’re lucky, we’ll squeeze out a few spring storms to keep the backcountry fresh a little longer. Either way, we’re enjoying it.


bison outside of buena vista

the collegiates

sunset over the town of crested butte

cotton candy over whetstone mountain

skate skiing before it disappears

making a snowball in spring, because rocky mountain powder is too fluffy in winter



I’ve kept our menu simple since the kitchen in Crested Butte is serviceable, but not tricked out like my kitchen back home. Besides, I don’t come here to cook. Obviously. And with the warmer weather, I’m migrating towards salads and sandwiches. So, a couple of weeks ago, we drove into Denver to shop around for a new washing machine. We didn’t find a washing machine that we liked, but we did find 2 cases of wine – go figure! I swear this is related. On our way home, we popped by Souplantation (aka Sweet Tomatoes) to grab a late lunch. One of Jeremy’s favorite salads is their wonton chicken salad. Surely I could make an even better version at home, right?

There are three components to the salad: the chicken, the ginger dressing, and the salad (vegetables and such). I guess it’s four components if you count the wonton strips, but those are optional. The chicken is simple – marinate for 30 minutes then bake for 20 minutes. You might be tempted to boil the chicken and shred it, which is perfectly acceptable, but you’d be missing out. The extra flavor from the marinade is worth the itsy bitsy amount of effort.


the chicken: chicken breasts, soy sauce, sesame oil, white pepper

place it all in a bag

marinate for 30 minutes

place in a baking dish to bake



**Jump for more butter**