Tuesday, June 30, 2015

saguaro national park (+ hello again)


Hey there,

It’s me! I know, it’s been a really long time. About 7 months, give or take...a lengthy absence, which in the online world usually translates into blog death. But what can I say? I’ve been enjoying life and I thought it would be best to spend my small amounts of free time away from the computer, actually living in the moment instead of writing about it. But I have a more relaxed work schedule now since many of our clients take time off during the summer, and with the craziness of Design Week behind me I thought it would be fun to get back into it.  

The other reason for the long break has a lot to do with the difficulties of last year. I typically spend the end of December/early January being reflective and writing some sort of “wrap up.” But 2014 was a doozy and I really didn’t know where to start. I faced the biggest challenges of my life, for it was the year my father passed away. But it was also a year where I grew closer to my friends, my children and my family in ways that only death can bring people together. The "silver lining," if there can even be  such a thing during such a relentlessly strenuous time, is coming to understand how fortunate I am to have such an incredible community around me. Also, tragedy has shown me what truly matters and what doesn’t. Life is pretty simple when you boil things down.

Anyway, here we are and 2015 is already halfway over. It seems silly to start things off with a backtrack to February, but as I think about the highlights of the year thus far, our trip to Saguaro National Park this winter stands out. We put together a really fun and inexpensive trip (thanks frequent flier miles/hotel points) and had a blast hiking through the cacti groves, investigating the small details of succulents, watching desert sunsets, eating really good Mexico food and swimming in our hotel's outdoor pool. This was by far our most successful adventure as a family of 4 to date. There were shockingly few meltdowns and everyone’s behavior (mine included) was A++. As my mother frequently says, “Pooh, pooh, pooh. May it continue…” 

It's good to be back.

xx, 
Batya 

Food for thought: Ed Ruscha's Cactus Omelet from T Magazine/The New York Times.
Book for thought: How to Raise a Wild Child
And give a listen to this great interview.






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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

gunnison's black canyon + ina's salted caramel nuts (perfect for hiking, the holidays, or any other time!)



Some of my fondest memories of childhood are those of the travels we did together as a family. There were trips overseas, an Amtrak ride from New York to Orlando, and a vacation whereby we drove down California's coastal Highway 1. But my favorite had to be the “Great Stepelman Family Road Trip of ’86.” We flew to Phoenix, rented a motor home, and my dad drove us around the Southwest for a few weeks. My brother and I  had a blast discovering New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah. It was really the first time I saw the beauty of our National Parks system and I knew one day I'd be back…(and here we are!).

Travel and exploration are things Otis and Theodore enjoy too, and we had every intention of heading south this fall. But after a failed Aspen weekend - immediately followed by a stellar Rocky Mountain excursion- Matt and I decided we should end our hiking season on a positive note. We took a moment to think about whether or not a trip to Gunnison's Black Canyon was a good idea, and determined that the lengthy car ride plus the strenuous hiking inside the canyon should be saved for next spring or early fall. The boys would be almost a year older by then and better equipped to deal with the trip.

On the weekend following my husband’s birthday, I gave him the gift I knew he really wanted: 5 days of solitude. Unlike me, an extrovert who craves only minimal alone time, Matt loves having time to himself and he found peace and quiet in Colorado's Black Canyons. I can't wait to see this canyon in person (it took about 2 million years for the river to shape the steepest cliffs and oldest rocks in North America)…and who knows, maybe the trip to the canyon will become one of our children's  fondest memories

Here are Matt's photos...



















A few weeks ago, my friend Jayme and I went to hear Ina Garten speak at the Paramount Theater in Denver. I loved listening to her talk about her transition from policy paper-pusher at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to food gourmand and business owner. I've always credited Ina as the person who got me inspired to cook unfussy seasonal dishes that are big on flavor, so it was interesting to hear how her recipes go from concept to print. 
Anyway, this recipe for Salted Caramel Nuts comes from Ina's most recent cookbook "Make It Ahead"- which, if you couldn't guess, really works well with my current lifestyle.
A caveat for those of you making this snack at altitude: watch your caramel closely, as it boils faster at higher elevations (like Denver). I had to throw out the first batch before getting it right in the second go-round, so don't take your eyes off the stove! 
Enjoy!
xo, 
Batya

Salted Caramel Nuts from Make It Ahead by Ina Garten, via the Barefoot Contessa
Makes 8 cups
Ingredients
1 cup each whole roasted salted cashews, whole large pecan halves, whole unsalted almonds, and whole walnut halves (4 cups total) 

1½ cups sugar 

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 

2 teaspoons kosher salt 

1 teaspoon fleur de sel
Preparation
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 


Combine the nuts on a sheet pan, spread them out, and roast them for 7 minutes, until they become fragrant. Set aside to cool. 


After the nuts are cooled, place the sugar and ¼ cup of water in a medium (10-inch) sauté pan and mix with a fork until all of the sugar is moistened. Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar melts—from this point on, don’t stir the caramel, swirl the pan! Don’t worry—the mixture may look as though it’s crystallizing. Continue to cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes a clear golden brown, swirling the pan constantly at the end. (Careful—the caramel is very hot!)
Off the heat, quickly add the vanilla (it will bubble up!) and swirl the pan to combine. Working quickly (the caramel will continue to cook in the pan), add the nuts and the kosher salt and toss with 2 large spoons until the nuts are completely coated. 



Pour the nuts and any extra caramel in the pan onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Spread the nuts out in one layer, pulling them apart with two forks. Sprinkle with the fleur de sel and set aside to cool. When they’re completely cooled, carefully break the nuts into large clusters with your hands, trying not to break the nuts too much. 
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