Cheery Observations

Celebrating the Unique, Sustainable, and Creative

New Website Address July 7, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — meaghin @ 3:32 pm

My blog and all of its posts have moved to:

Thanks for reading!

Moutoux Orchards

Moutoux Orchards


Modern Spice: Monica Bhide July 6, 2009

While driving home from work one early-June afternoon, I turned on NPR (typical) and started listening to Kojo Nnamdi (not so typical, as I don’t usually get out of work so early and have to settle for Kojo repeats).

Kojo had a guest host that day and she was interviewing Monica Bhide, author of several cookbooks, including her latest, ‘Modern Spice’.  I had a lot on my mind that day and was debating turning off the radio and zoning out.  But there was something about Monica’s self-deprecating and engaging manner that kept me listening for my entire drive home…and listening after I parked my car in the garage.  As a novice foodie, I’m excited about developing my food palate and learning how to use and pick out spices in food.  However, I’ve been intimidated about where to start and up until listening to the interview, had not been incredibly adventurous in my cooking, though I can certainly throw in a good dose of salt.
The interview was fascinating for several reasons.  First, Monica explained her round-about career path to becoming a cook and cook book author.  She started out as an engineer and was quite frank about the difficulties she faced when she decided to leave a well paying job to follow her passions—financial difficulties, family confusion, etc.  It was an inspiring story to hear—I admire those who are able to buck society’s many pressures and follow their hearts and passions.
Second, she was so easy going about navigating spices and experimenting in the kitchen.  She recognizes that traditional Indian cooking takes forever and has an element that is simply not ‘teachable’ (as she said, her grandmother used to just throw in a little of this and a little of that, and she had no idea what was happening).  Her goal was to make a cookbook where the flavors of Indian cooking came through in an accessible and delicious way.

After listening to this interview, Justin and I immediately went through all of our spices, threw out the incredibly old ones, and bought Modern Spice.  Since purchasing the book, we’ve tried four different recipes and already feel more comfortable with using curry, fennel, coriander, and cumin.  We were also lucky enough to meet Monica at the Penn Quarter Farmer’s Market last week and try a few additional recipes from Modern Spice.

Our dinner tonight included Roasted Cauliflower with Fennel.

modern spice
If you are an aspiring foodie interested in cooking more adventurously, I highly recommend this cookbook.  I would love to find a cookbook as accessible as Modern Spice for Asian cooking.


Penn Quarter Farmers’ Market: July 2nd July 3, 2009

Justin and I went to FreshFarm’s Penn Quarter Farmer’s Market yesterday and had a wonderful time wandering around.  We went with the goal of getting eggs and peaches, but left with two bags full of delicious produce and flowers.
Penn Quarter Farmers Market
We started off grabbing two pain au chocolate from Quail Creek Farm, a bakery outside of Hedgesville, West Virginia,  and an iced tea from nearby Teaism, as we were feeling too hungry to control ourselves and probably definitely would have started buying everything in sight!

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

After we felt somewhat satiated, we picked up some broccoli and green onions for a stir fry.   The garlic they were selling was perfectly shaped!

Perfect Garlic

Perfect Garlic

We also grabbed some peaches and snap peas (mmm, stir fry) from another farmer and eggs from yet another farmer.  We  bought a bunch of beautiful purple zinnias from Wollam Gardens, an outdoor grower of cut flowers, located in Jeffersonton, Virginia.
flowers wollam
We completed our Farmers Market rampage with delicious bacon from the Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s Red Apron Butcher.  Besides at Farmer’s Markets, Nathan Anda sells his hand cut and cured meats at both Planet Wine’s shop and as part of Buzz’s delicious paninis.

We have already cooked the bacon and scrambled the eggs:  a perfect start to a holiday weekend Friday!

Red Apron's Pepperoni and Soppressata

Red Apron's Pepperoni and Soppressata


Twisting Away Waste June 30, 2009

Filed under: Environment,housewares — meaghin @ 6:50 pm
Tags: , , ,

In my constant effort to live in an efficient, sustainable manner, I’m always looking for ways to alter my every day mundane actions using products or tools that make a difference environmentally.   If I have to wipe down countertops or clean dishes, I feel slightly better knowing that my boring actions will ultimately result in less waste.  Not every green action has to be ground breaking!
We have been using Twist loofah sponges and bamboo cloths for the past several months.  Our paper towel bill was becoming astronomical and come on, except in the commercials, I’ve yet to be able to ‘re use’ my Bounty Quicker Picker Upper.
The Twist cloth is genius because it acts as a paper towel stand in.  (Disclaimer:  we still use paper towels for some of the bigger messes, but we’ve reduced our paper towel consumption by at least half).  You can use it dry or wet—it can wipe up pretty much anything, and then yes, you can actually wring it out and use it again…and again…and again.  The cloth can go in the dishwasher/boiling water to sanitize it.  The packaging claims one cloth is the equivalent to 80 paper towels.  Hmm.  One thing that Twist might want to consider is making these cloths in other colors.  No matter how clean you make your cloth, after one use, it’s never going to be as white as it once was!  A green or brown cloth would be more visually appealing.

The loofah sponges are bio degradable and unbleached.  They hold up surprisingly well.  I don’t need a bright blue and purple sponge—just one that does its job and I feel comfortable throwing away after I’ve destroyed it!


Making a Necessary Errand ‘Greener’ June 25, 2009

Filed under: Environment — meaghin @ 5:17 pm
Tags: ,

Oh, dry cleaning.  Every time I pick up clothes from the drycleaner, I wince.  Not just because of the bill—the bill I can ‘stomach’, most of the time.  It’s the waste:  horrible wire hangers, each item individually bagged.  Bags that are unusable in another form, except as a ‘must be supervised toy’ for my cat.  She loves dry cleaning bags, but I am not in agreement!  The frustrating thing about most dry cleaners is that even if you take something in to be tailored-not dry cleaned-it ends up in a plastic bag.

I am planning on purchasing a ‘Dry Greening’ tote and then convincing my dry cleaner to use it.  The purchasing is the easy part; the convincing might take a bit more work!

The totes are sturdy, water-repellant, and ultimately recyclable (when they wear out, of course).
dry cleaning tote
So, you put your articles of clothing in the bag, drop it off at the dry cleaner, and then in theory, the dry cleaner flips the tote inside out into a bag.   Happy customer, happy environment?  One can certainly write an entire article on why dry cleaning is bad for the environment.  However, when something has to be dry cleaned, this can at least alleviate a bit of waste.  It’s not an earth shattering step, but progress comes from each individual making small adjustments.


Virginia Farmland Supper June 24, 2009

In honor of the Summer Solstice and in support of both our favorite group of restaurants—The Neighborhood Restaurant Group—and local farmers, Justin and I went  to the Virginia Farmland Supper last weekend.  This ‘farm to fork’ experience was absolutely one-of-a-kind.

The event took place far out in Loudoun County, VA (practically West Virginia) at Moutoux Orchards.  I am somewhat familiar with a few local farms, but was unfamiliar with Moutoux before this event.  Their orchards and farm were the perfect venue!  Moutoux Orchards is a family run operation and pride themselves on growing their fruit and vegetables without pesticides.  Peaches, strawberries, and a variety of grains (wheat, spelt, and rye) are their main focus, however apples, cherries, plums, and pear trees were recently planted and should be bearing fruit within several years.  If you are local, you can check out Moutoux at the Vienna fruitstand and Arlington and Dupont Farmers’ Markets.
Farmland Supper Collage 2
We are frequent guests at all of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s restaurants (in fact, Buzz Bakery is making our wedding cupcakes!).  We’ve been to several of their other events (OctoberFest and Neighborhood Cookout) so we knew we couldn’t miss this event!

After waking up to torrential rain, I find it unimaginable how perfect the late afternoon and evening weather was.   The night started with passed appetizers:  housemade sausage with vegetables, grilled summer squash, beets (!) and an amazing sparkling Viognier from Horton Vineyards.   There were 4 bluegrass musicians playing nearby and we were able to wander around the farm and visit the chickens.
farmland dinner collage
We walked about a half mile further into the farm to a massive table set up in the field, near lush swiss chard and wheat blowing in the wind.  Each course came with a wine pairing from Horton Vineyards.  Highlights of the meal were ‘This morning’s deviled eggs’, the best crabcake I have had locally, and chevre cheesecake (as light as air).  We sat near two of the farmers working at Moutoux and some local foodies.  It was a refreshing and authentic night and the perfect way to start summer:  supporting sustainable farming and a community restaurant group!


UP June 12, 2009

Filed under: movies — meaghin @ 12:20 pm


I saw the movie Up on opening weekend a few weekends ago.  It was a wonderful, poignant film.  Pixar found the ‘magic’ formula:  Up is a movie children will find hilarious and a movie adults will find touching.  This movie serves as a reminder to live life in the present and that joy comes from unexpected sources.


One of the beauties of Up is that the first 15 minutes of the movie, which contain very little dialogue, captured my heart in a way that many full feature non-animated movies have not.  In these 15 minutes the viewer sees the relationship between Carl and Ellie Fredericksen, one a yin to the other’s yang.


As children, Carl is quiet, timid, and bashful and Ellie is loud, brash, and unafraid.  They fit each other like well matched puzzle pieces, as each is looking for an adventure partner (and each desperately desires a trip to the lost world in South America).  Through a sweet instrumental soundtrack, the first part of the movie gracefully shows Carl and Ellie marrying and starting their life together.  The clips of Carl and Ellie going on picnics and dreaming of their South American adventure gradually become moving understated clips of Carl and Ellie being told that they lost their unborn child.  The clips continue with the couple growing older together, each working their respective jobs at the zoo, sitting harmoniously together in their reading chairs, and keeping the memory of their desired trip alive.  Their savings jar for their trip is used for life’s unexpected expenses (car and house repairs) and by the end of the montage, Ellie and Carl have lived a long, happy life together, but never took the trip.  Ellie passes away.


The movie then switches gears and shows Carl as a grumpy old man, set in his ways.  If the movie started with this scene, Up would have lost its sentimental value and would have just been an amusing cartoon about a cranky man.  But because I, the viewer, saw the caring man he was throughout his life, I had a much greater empathy for his situation (being alone) and his desire to finally go on that trip to South America, despite great barriers.

The rest of the movie becomes fast paced and funny, with less time spent on poignant moments.  However, due to the first 15 minutes, I left the movie feeling very moved.  Up reaffirms the value of a loving relationship and of not having ‘rigid’ dreams.  Carl thought he had failed by not making it to South American with Ellie, but in reality, Carl and Ellie’s adventures were the everyday moments spent together—moments that never could have been dreamed of.  I think life’s best moments are moments one can’t predict.  I think freedom and happiness comes from being open to the unexpected and treasuring the adventure that your current life already brings.