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Richmond: First Impressions

1. It rains in Richmond! Quite a bit actually. It’s interfering with some soccer and tennis matches as of late, but we are forever grateful, having moved from a city whose water resources are severely strained to say the least. Richmond is a very green place, and we are still getting used to the leaves, the soft grass…the luxuries of nature.

2. People dress appropriate to the weather. We’re hard-pressed to find a hipster outside of the VCU campus, and he or she would never be caught dead in their skin-tight jeans in the summer time (because that’s just ridiculous Austin.)

An obnoxious Austin hipster

3. It’s even more southern than in Texas. One of my tennis team members actually asked me if we were “going to be back from our away match in time for the Cotillion party.” What’s more, Christian and I will be attending our first gala this Friday. I bought a long dress; he rented a tux. I’m hoping they don’t expect me to have a “hair-do,” because I’ll be coming straight from a tennis meet and it’s supposed to be as humid as a swamp in Georgia.

4) Starbucks is in hog heaven…and we are not. We miss local coffee shops! There’s nothing wrong with Starbucks. The staff is nice. They are quite successful at what they do. But I’m a strong coffee drinker, and my husband is a French press fiend, and Starbucks doesn’t do either of those. Also, it frustrates me that I can’t order a “small” coffee at Starbucks. Every time I ask for a small, they correct me and say “tall.” Huh? No comprendo.

6. Public radio might as well go off the air. No amount of pledge drives will save these people. All they talk about is politics (Washington, not local), and there isn’t decent music. Perhaps KUT should come out and hold a workshop on how to be a more global and more hip. I never thought I’d say it, but I miss John Aielli. Gasp!

7. Mexican food is only attainable if we’re willing to work for it. I love to cook, and I do make some mean migas. But there’s something special about rolling out of bed on a Saturday morning and being able to ask my husband about where to go get breakfast tacos. Needless to say, we’ve already planned our culinary itinerary for when we return to Texas for Thanksgiving. I think we can squeeze in at least two Mexican brunches and  one happy hour.

Thank the Lord on High for Curra's Mole

8. People are really nice here. In Richmond, even your boss invites you over for breakfast, and the Brooks Brothers sales rep writes you a thank you note. I missed an orientation meeting with the Assistant Director of the Middle School, and I asked to set a meeting to get caught up to speed. Instead of having me to her office, she invited me to her house for breakfast (my favorite meal of the day!). She actually made eggs (with all the fixin’s), coffee, fresh fruit, and bagels. I never knew work could be so scrumptious. About the Brooks Brothers bit…No joke. My husband really did receive a thank you letter from our sales rep after we bought him a new shirt and some ties for his teaching job. I know this guy just wants our business, but that’s still really nice.

9. Cab drivers double as tour guides. My brother-in-law Robert and his girlfriend Jane came to visit us recently. We took a cab downtown to the Capital Ale House for some brews and burgers. Little did we know that the real fun of the evening would not be had at the bar, but rather, on the cab ride downtown. Our driver apparently considered himself an amateur tour guide. He informed us that we lived on the “John Smith Trail” (true) and that Mr. Smith was a famous Civil War Captain (not true). Also, the Malvern Manor apartments – where Christian and I once applied to live, with other young folk – was apparently a retirement home for “old, rich doctors and lawyers” (not true). Last but not least, he had some particularly slandering things to say about the Arthur Ashe statue on Monument Ave and what “it had done to our Confederate history.” That was the last time we called for a cab in Richmond.

The Arthur Ashe Statue on Monument Ave in Richmond, VA

10. We managed to slip under the radar and gain access to the “Beverly Hills” of Richmond without having to undergo genetic testing or show proof of income. We live in the most gorgeous neighborhood right along the James River bank, which is lined with impressive homes. We happen to rent and are blessed with a little yard, a fire pit, two bedrooms and two baths! Our neighborhood has tall trees that are very green. Quite a change from Austin. We are so happy here!

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Sustenance: a Week in Review

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On Monday, we woke early, had an early breakfast, and Sarah went for a long bike ride. When she returned home at 10:30 a.m., she was already hungry for lunch. While an early start makes for a more productive day, it wreaks havoc on a regular meal schedule. It was 2:30 p.m. and already her tummy was growling. Perhaps it was the warm, humid air that swept through Austin that day, or perhaps it was because HEB had mangos on sale for $0.50 each. Whatever the reason, a mango lassi sounded like a really, really good idea. Two mangoes, a cup of Greek yogurt, a splash of milk, and a bit of honey later…sayonara hunger pangs!

On Tuesday, we were determined to use the Napa cabbage that had been sitting in our fridge since the last CSA pickup. In the past, it had sadly gone to waste as uneaten coleslaw. Inspired by a recent visit to The Peached Tortilla (thanks Betty Hahn for the gift card), we decided to make our own kimchi (a fermented Korean cabbage, similar to sauerkraut, but spicier and sweeter…a great topper for just about any sandwich-like food). The jury is still out on whether or not this will be safe to eat. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion to this risky culinary endeavor!

For Wednesday dinner, Christian made Tawainese-style Three Cup Chicken with Thai basil and red chiles. Sarah, at first skeptical of all food that appears to be Chinese take-out, soon concluded that the meal surpassed her expectations. In the end, we dubbed the meal “Thunder Thighs with Terrible Rice.” Why such a strange name you might ask? Sarah purposely didn’t follow the cooking instructions for making arborio rice, thus making it “terrible” in the eyes of an Italian chef, but “just right” for our purposes. The “Thunder Thighs” portion of the name originated from the fact that we were making chicken thighs, while listening to an “Earth Sky” segment on the radio (yes, we are nerds). Apparently, paleontologists (our fellow nerds) had recently discovered a new species of dinosaur and appropriately named it “Thunder Thighs.”

On Thursday night, we had to catch a meeting at The Canine Center about dogs and babies (don’t get any ideas, yet!). Having no time to fix a meal, we zapped our Thunder Thighs and Terrible Rice in the microwave and scooted off to our meeting.

Friday night Sarah whipped up some Red Lentil Soup that she read about in a recent edition of Food & Wine. Apparently, it’s a recipe inspired by the red lentil soup at Soup Cycle – a soup delivery service in Portland, Oregon that brings your order to you on a bicycle!

This morning (Saturday) we breakfasted on Beet Cakes (thanks Stefanie Leacock for the recommendation!) and Ginger Lemongrass Sodas. Not bad for a couple of kids sans culinary degrees.

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Favorite 11:15 a.m. ritual

Garrison Keillor was spot on in today’s The Writer’s Almanac. Listen here or read here:

“The Kama Sutra of Kindness: Position Number 3”
by Mary Mackey

It’s easy to love
through a cold spring
when the poles
of the willows
turn green
pollen falls like
a yellow curtain
and the scent of
Paper Whites
clots
the air

but to love for a lifetime
takes talent

you have to mix yourself
with the strange
beauty of someone
else
wake each morning
for 72,000
mornings in
a row so
breathed and
bound and
tangled
that you can hardly
sort out
your arms
and
legs

you have to
find forgiveness
in everything
even ink stains
and broken
cups

you have to be willing to move through
life
together
the way the long
grasses move
in a field
when you careen
blindly toward
the other
side

there’s never going to be anything
straight or predictable
about your path
except the
flattening
and the springing
back

you just go on walking for years
hand in hand
waist deep in the weeds
bent slightly forward
like two question
marks
and all the while it

burns
my dear
it burns beautifully above
you
and goes on
burning
like a relentless
sun

“The Kama Sutra of Kindness: Position Number 3” by Mary Mackey, from Breaking the Fever. © Marsh Hawk Press, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

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