Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pretzels and Tulips

I’m supposed to be working right now, writing a piece about the Fairness Doctrine. But I’m tired of thinking about it. Maybe a blogging break will help clear my mind?

Meredith had been BEGGING me for nearly a week to make pretzels. She saw it on one of her sing-along videos. There is a song called I’m a Pretzel where kids are contorting their bodies and then it shows some workers making those mall pretzels. When Meredith saw this, she declared, “We need to make pretzels because they are hearts for Valentine’s Day.” Finally yesterday we did it and she had a good time.

Let me just say that this recipe for Mall Pretzels is amazing! I had never made them before. They were SO good. Way better than mall pretzels. It was a last-minute thing so I didn’t have the coarse salt, which would have been fun. We did half with salt and the other half with cinnamon sugar. They were the perfect blend of chewy/crusty and gooey on the inside. We loved this recipe. Plus, Meredith had a lot of fun making something she saw in her video.

And … tulips.

I have a friend who recently posted about how receiving candy and flowers on Valentine’s isn’t as special because it’s expected. Well, maybe Kevin is lucky that his wife has such a bad memory (I am not kidding about this) because I always forget every year that he gets me flowers on Valentine’s Day until they arrive at the door. Then I’m surprised and delighted.

I really, really enjoyed having these tulips. They were a much-needed reminder that spring is around the corner. They brought freshness and beauty to my house. I don’t know what outrageous price Kevin paid for Valentine’s flowers but, at least this year, they were worth it and very timely.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Library Day

Every week or two, we do a major library run. We usually come away with at least 50 books, most of them children’s books, and some videos. Right now I have about 80 books checked out from the library, which is typical. I love it. My library card makes me feel so rich, like the whole world is at my disposal.

Today I spent about an hour playing on the library’s children’s computer with Meredith. I was trying to teach her how to use the mouse. She got the clicking part, and that you’re supposed to click on certain icons, but wasn’t very good at coordinating the moving and clicking together. So, basically, I moved her hand and she clicked. There were some really great educational games for toddlers on the kids’ computers. We had fun with it. I’m glad to see that Meredith enjoys the library as much as her mom!

Even the moon sent good wishes ...

I’m 29 now. I’m not really nostalgic about my last year in this decade. I’m kind of looking forward to my thirties, actually. My twenties were, in many ways, a continual struggle. I read a book once called Quarter Life Crisis, which made a really good point about how the twenties are often the hardest years. There have been many things said and written about mid-life crisis, but it’s the twenties where people are trying to find their place in the world and figure everything out from career, finances, finding a mate, etc. Not much has been said and written about this quarter-life crisis.

I know one thing, in my thirties I’m not planning to move across the country three times, be intentionally unemployed with no idea what the next job will be, be uncertain about my man, and one thing I know for a fact … Kevin is NOT going back to school!

Speaking of Kevin, he decorated the house with streamers for my birthday after I had gone to bed the night before. Sweet! I woke up to a festive house and a little pile of presents. Then he took me to dinner and shopping. That, plus the fact that I got a free Starbucks coffee card at my MOPS meeting (they give out random prizes at every meeting and last week I got one!), totally made my day!

And, to top it all off, even the moon decided to eclipse, give us all a show, and make my birthday special. Wasn’t that so nice?

Freezer Fun

This week I’m committed to using up stuff I have in my freezer (mostly meat but also some frozen veggies and fruit for smoothies). Someday soon (next house?) I hope to get a second freezer. Right now the one I have is jammed with stuff. So, I’m looking forward to clearing it out a little bit, and the money we’ll save on groceries!

Ummm, let’s see … this week I think we’ll have …

1) Our very favorite meat loaf, garlic mashed potatoes, and vegetables.

2) French Dip (this is likely our family’s favorite meal and it’s easy as a blink), green salad, fresh fruit.

3) Baked teriyaki chicken (truly amazing recipe!), steamed rice, broccoli

4) Breakfast for dinner: Granola Pancakes, scrambled eggs with bacon, fruit smoothies

5) Fettuccine Alfredo w/ grilled chicken, steamed carrots and green beans

I think I’ll also make some pumpkin bread (recipe below).

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Pumpkin Bread

3 cups canned pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 cups white sugar
6 eggs
4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons ground clove

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three 9x5 inch loaf pans. In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, oil, sugar, and eggs. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves; stir into the pumpkin mixture until well blended. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The top of the loaf should spring back when lightly pressed.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Kid Post

Here’s another kid post … the overwhelming majority of my time is spent taking care of these two precious girls. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Clara Faith

Overnight, Clara’s personality has changed from docile creature to feisty little girl. I don’t know what happened to my tranquil little baby. It seems that since she's tasted the freedom to move around, she has acquired a spirited streak.

These days she’s a total mama’s girl. This is new for me. Meredith was always a daddy’s girl and very independent. I’m trying to find the balance of enjoying the fact that I’m Clara’s favorite and getting her to appreciate other people more!

Meredith Grace

Meredith is drawing really awesome stick figures these days! The figures have no body—just a round head, two legs, two arms, a bunch of dots on the face, and crazy hair. But they are SO cute. I love it!

This morning I told Meredith to make up her bed. She said, “I will do it. I promise.” I have no idea where she picked up on the “I promise” line.

Last Sunday when she was loud in church, I took her to the back and asked her if she knew why she was going to get a spanking. She said, “Yes, because I was noisy and disobedient.” Then she quickly held up her index finger and thumb and said, “Can I just get a LITTLE spanking?” It’s so hard to discipline kids when they’re so dang funny.

The other day Meredith found a gaudy ring that someone gave me and I let her play with. She exclaimed, “Oh! I think I can get married with that!”

After I put her hair in piggy tails the other day, she asked me if I wanted piggy tails too. When I said no, she looked horrified and said, “But don’t you want to look like ME?” [What am I supposed to say to that?]

When I was putting away her ABC puzzle (which she had scattered all over the floor and wasn’t even playing with anymore), she rushed over to me and yelled, “No! Don’t take my letters away because then I can’t learn to read!!”

When I was buckling her out of her car seat, she saw my wedding ring and said, “You have a diamond.” A: “Yes, who gave it to me?” M: “Daddy.” A: “When?” M: “Sometime you had a wedding before Clara got in your tummy!”

She’s been enjoying carrying around a new purse that grandpa bought her. At the grocery checkout the other day, she pulled a penny from her purse and held it out to me. She said, “Here is some money to pay that lady.” [Like, hey mom, I’ll take care of the grocery bill this week!]

Meredith asked me recently, “What is the opposite of resting?” I didn’t answer right away because I was trying to decide the best word. Then she piped up, “I know … it’s THINKING!”

The other day she asked, “Can I bring my makeup brush to Meijer?” I asked if she was going to hold onto it and not drop it and lose it (which is what she normally does). She thought for a second and then replied, “You can put it in your purse. How about THAT good idea?”

Ever since she’s said this, Kevin and I are always asking each other, “How about THAT good idea?” I think this will be a family line for a long time …

Monday, February 11, 2008

Mmm, mmm, mmm ...

Well, due to the aforementioned plumbing issues, I didn’t cook as much as I’d planned last week. Here are some additional things I think I’ll make. It appears I’m relying heavily on the AllRecipe’s site this week! Gotta love it.

The first menu is for Valentine’s Day. Something special. It’s unlikely we’ll go out because of the crowds and the realities of having kids. Maybe we'll make up for it next week when it's my b-day!

1) Bleu cheese crusted filet w/ port wine sauce, whipped sweet potatoes, green beans, molten chocolate cakes with sugar-coated raspberries

2) Tomato Gorgonzola Soup w/ corn cakes on the grill (Rachael Ray’s)

3) Chile rellenos pie, Spanish rice, green salad—tho’ I’ll probably heavily modify the chile rellenos recipe because I’m trying to recreate something I had once.

And I’m planning to make and decorate heart-shaped frosted sugar cookies with Meredith. I like to put almond extract in mine.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Craziness!

You wouldn’t believe how crazy it is here right now. We’ve had to take sponge baths and wash our hair over the sink for the last two days because our one and only shower is having major clogging issues (not even professional-strength Draino helped this time around). Right now the ceiling over the stairs has huge orangey-brown water spots and is literally falling apart (onto the stairs which is covered with towels and buckets) because of the leakage. Our lucky landlord is the one who gets to come fix it today.

Then, somewhere between my work deadline and trying for the second time to potty train Meredith, Kevin came down with the flu. Ugh.

Fortunately, Meredith is doing really well with the potty training this time. It happened in like two hours. I’m not kidding. If you remember my last desperate post, you’ll know how relieved I am right now. She’s been dry all day and for the third day in a row. And, the best part is I don’t even have to remind her to go. We’ve run errands with her wearing only underwear (not even pull-ups) and she’s done great! It’s so great to see your child take those first steps toward being a self-governed individual.
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UPDATE: The landlord is here. I'm sitting at my computer desk working and all I hear is what sounds like thousands of little pieces of ceiling falling on the stairs and living room floor. I wonder if this is a full-service landlord (i.e., will he vacuum)? I'd better not press my luck!

For those of us who buy the weekly groceries ...

What is eaten in one week around the world.

Italy: The Manzo family of Sicily
Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11


Germany: The Melander family of Bargteheide

Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.07

United States: The Revis family of North Carolina (Sure hope most American families eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less junk food than this family.)

Food expenditure for one week $341.98



Mexico: The Casales family of Cuernavaca

Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09


Poland: The Sobczynscy family of Konstancin-Jeziorna

Food expenditure for one week: 582.48 Zlotys or $151.27



Egypt: The Ahmed family of Cairo
Food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53

Ecuador: The Ayme family of Tingo

Food expenditure for one week: $31.55

Bhutan: The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village
Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03

Chad: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp
Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23

Monday, February 04, 2008

This Week's Kitchen Creations

Well, I thought about making gumbo this week in commemoration of Mardi Gras (not that we really celebrate Fat Tuesday or anything, but I love these holidays because they lend menu-planning inspiration), but then I wasn’t really in the mood for it … so that’s just how it goes.

Here's a picture of the tortilla soup I'll make. We LOVE this recipe!

Here's my plan:

1) Rotisserie chicken, broccoli w/ cheddar sauce (recipe below), pumpkin dinner rolls

2) Baked potato bar

3) Chili-chicken lettuce wraps (from Everyday Food) w/ vegetables and steamed rice

4) Emeril’s Chicken Tortilla Soup w/ homemade tortilla strips, corn casserole, green salad

5) Croque-madame, roasted asparagus, fruit

The croque-madame is something Kevin had at a restaurant and loved, so I’m going to try to recreate it. I think it’s supposed to have b├ęchamel sauce but this time I’m going for speed and I’ll just use the suggested mayo (this week I’ll gladly take the help)!

This is the first time I'm making the chili-chicken lettuce wraps. Shannon got me a subscription to Everyday Food and I love it so far!

Here’s the cheddar broccoli recipe we like (I thought it was online but I couldn’t find it):

Steamed Broccoli with Cheddar Sauce

1 1/4 pounds broccoli
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 cup milk
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Steam broccoli; transfer to a large bowl. Heat butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until foamy. Whisk in flour; cook, whisking, until mixture darkens slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Add mustard and milk; simmer, whisking, until thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese until just melted; season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over broccoli; serve.

Friday, February 01, 2008

First Dentist Visit

Today we participated in the Give Kids a Smile program sponsored by the Indianapolis Dental Association. It was great! I had read Meredith several books for kids on visiting the dentist. So she was already familiar with what the chair would look like, what the tools would look like, the fact that the hygienist would be wearing a mask and gloves, the fact that there would be a really bright light, etc. She did really well. Much of that was due to the fact that the office staff was phenomenal. They made her feel so comfortable about everything. They let her hold the tools before they put them in her mouth and they even gave her a mask to take home and a goody bag at the end. It was such a positive first-dentist-visit experience.

Afterwards we met daddy at the food court downtown for lunch. Clara is wearing a sweater knit by my friend Heather. Isn’t it beautiful? People who can make stuff like that amaze me! Incidentally, Heather is also the one who told me about the Give Kids a Smile program.