Christmas 2013

December 26, 2013 at 7:05 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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With snow still on the ground from last weekend’s storm, we counted this as one of Wichita’s rare white Christmases. On Christmas Eve we let Liam open his annual Christmas ornament, Dusty Crophopper from the Planes movie, complete with spinning propeller.

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Then we let him pick one other present to open.

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A guess-the-Disney-character-stuck-to-your-forehead game from Uncle Chris, Aunt Ann, Brady and Devin. We had to play it immediately. Lots of family fun! And sexy photos.

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Mickey Ears

But then we’d created a monster. He wanted to open all the gifts from the aunts and uncles. He’d had a stomach bug since Monday, laid around with a fever all day Tuesday, and we felt so sorry for our poor little guy, so we obliged. We’re such suckers.

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From Great Aunt Barb, Scotty and Ashley. He also got some games from his Aunt Kim and Aunt Jill. Our game pile has gotten seriously high. We love games in this house!

Then it was off to bed. Liam was just starting to eat regular foods again, and in our rush to get him to bed, we completely forgot to set out milk and cookies for Santa. But after the Christmas Eve Assembly From Hell, “Santa” helped herself right out of the cookie jar while watching Die Hard until midnight.

The next morning, Liam woke us up at a very reasonable hour, and whispered in my ear at my bedside, “Santa brought me a trampoline.” Indeed. So daddy and I tromped down the stairs to see the monstrosity. I asked him if he wanted to jump on it, but he wanted to check out what was under the tree first. Fair enough. First stockings…

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Then onto the big stuff. He got a soccer and hockey goal from Grandpa Bob, something he may appreciate more in the spring, but we could still set it up in the basement. Clothes, books, games…about three or four presents in, he decided he was sick of ripping paper and asked daddy to open the rest. This kid is so lazy! Finally, we got to the piece de’ resistance. A Discovery Toys Marble Track. The thing he asked Santa for, both in his adorable letter (a crayon drawing of a marble track) and in person at his preschool. At that point, all present opening ceased, and we were instructed to assemble it at once, please.

IMG_2506After awhile, we convinced him it was time to open the rest of the presents, and he discovered another big-ticket item, a LeapPad Ultra from Grandpa Mark and Grandma Julie. His very own iPad, he says! And he had a healthy stack of games and accessories from his MaMa and PaPa to get him started. Sweet.

I kept seeing all of these wonderful portraits of kids with their presents on Facebook, so I asked Liam to pose with his favorite gift. He replied, “I’m too busy playing!” So this was the best I got.

IMG_2503And this was a hilarious find at the Exploration Place gift shop, a quote from Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory. >>>

It was just us this Christmas, so we spent the rest of the morning on the phone with all the relatives. We were able to FaceTime with Jill, my parents and James’ parents. Such a nice change to be able to show them all of Liam’s gifts instead of simply describing them. Of course, Liam had little interest in talking with anyone. Except for Evie. We got to see all of her and Milo’s gifts, too.  Evie especially liked seeing my festive toes. This girl loves nail polish.

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Then, in between playing all of Liam’s new games, watching him jump on the trampoline (finally!), helping him build new marble tracks, and figuring out all the cool features on his new LeapPad, James and I cooked a big Christmas dinner. But first, mango chutney, mmmmm…

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As the afternoon wore on, James did more of the playing and I did more of the cooking. I’m not sure who had the hardest job. We had another Turducken Roll from Thanksgiving, and we decided to apply the tips we’d learned from the last time to make it juicier. I also made stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce (jellied, of course) and pecan pie. All of our favorites (save for James and the green bean casserole. More for me!) Oh, and some Malbec for me. Can’t forget the wine!

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It may not look like much, but it was more than enough. I didn’t even have room for pie. The Turducken turned out a lot moister, though James and I decided perhaps this particular dish isn’t really for us. We prefer our meat boneless and skinless, and this had way too much skin and dark meat for our liking. But we were able to pick out the choicest parts and enjoy those, at least. I took the rest and ground it with some mayo for a tasty sandwich spread. James did all the dishes with much grumbling (thanks, dear!), and Liam watched A Christmas Story for the first time. He liked parts of it, though he’s a little young to truly enjoy it yet.

Moving right along, it’s Liam’s birthday tomorrow! And my very excited five-year-old and I will be driving to my mom’s house to celebrate with his cousins. (James is coming, too, of course. But separately so we can stay until Monday.) We’re planning a little pirate party for him on Saturday, his first themed party yet! Mom and I are planning a little treasure hunt cake for him, and we might come up with a game or two. We didn’t invite any friends this time – it’s a hard time of year to get everyone together, and I was concerned with overwhelming him with too many guests, anyway. But I’m sure Milo and Evie will happily liven up the party. Wish us luck!

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Thanksgiving Birthday Jamboree!

December 1, 2013 at 10:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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What better way to celebrate my Thanksgiving birthday than to host Turkey Day at our house! We settled on a Cajun theme, ordering a Turducken Roll from the Cajun Grocer, cooking up our famous gumbo, adding corn bread stuffing to the menu, and of course we had to bake a pecan pie. The cooking commenced on Wednesday when my mom, dad, sister and niece descended. The kids took to tearing apart the downstairs while we grownups tore apart the kitchen.

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So, yeah, this is what unsupervised four-and six-year-olds do to each other. Actually, I think Evie did all the doing. It took Jill half an hour to untangle him from all the beads. At one point she asked Liam if he could shrink his head. She said, “Close your eyes and think real hard.” And of course my son tried his darndest. Adorable.

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photo3I’d made most of the gumbo before they arrived, so all that was left was to make the pies. And drink wine. And those who were still sober made the inevitable trip to the store for more ingredients (mom and James). We made two pecan pies, one sweet potato and one peanut butter pie. And the kids helped with chocolate chip cookies. Then it was time for dinner, a Tuscan Ragu that had been simmering in the crock pot since nine that morning. Scrumptious! After cleaning up, Jill graciously offered to stay with the kids while mom, dad and I dashed off to the movies. Jill had already seen Catching Fire with Camden that week, and since screening The Hunger Games for my parents the last time they visited, they couldn’t wait to see the sequel. I couldn’t either. Another excellent movie for the franchise! We didn’t make it home until 1 AM, and we were glad to see the house more or less tidied up and the children (and adults) fast asleep. Thanks, James and Jill, for holding down the fort!

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The next morning it was bread baking time! Evie loves to help Grandpa Mark with the dough. We tried to get Liam in on the fun, but he was feeling a bit overwhelmed with Doug, Cam and Milo’s arrival. So he stayed in the bedroom watching Planes while Milo disassembled Liam’s play room and Cam played Xbox Kinect with James. After the movie, the kids blew off some steam in the backyard, enjoying the warmer temperatures. We tucked the Turducken in the oven for awhile, then prepared the fixins: green bean casserole, corn bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. By 3:30 we sat down to eat, minus Evie and Liam, who’d already had their chicken fingers and mac n’ cheese when they decided they were hungry.

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The turducken was decent, though not fantastic. I wish I’d thought to pour the juice from the basting bag over the meat when we transferred it to the serving platter. We have another roll in the freezer for Christmas, so hopefully we can improve upon our technique then. The gumbo was a bit over-chicken-stocked (my fault – James wasn’t there to supervise), but everything else was incredible.

Proof that Doug was there >>

Tummies full and dishes washed (and washed and washed! Sheesh, this is unglamorous side of hosting the holiday), the Shavers and Liam and I headed to their hotel for a swim in the indoor pool. I didn’t feel like digging out my swim suit, which turned out to be a big mistake. Liam whined and complained that I wasn’t getting in the pool, so our swim outing stayed brief. Just as well – he was seriously hungry. So we Fletchers headed back to my house for some dinner (for Liam) and pie and wine (for mommy).

Friday we very purposely avoided shopping. We’re more Cyber Monday people. Mom, dad and Evie stayed for the afternoon, and after a lunch at Liam’s favorite restaurant (BJ’s of course!), we enjoyed a free day at the Wichita Art Museum. The kids had a great time running around, hardly looking at the art. I think Evie might have slowed down to take it in, but Liam had no patience for slow-poker-y. Art appreciation at age four is probably too much to ask. 

Once the last of our guests were on the road, Liam and I rolled up our sleeves and picked up the house. Which took forever. I don’t know how people do this with three kids full time. And then Liam begged me to set up the Christmas tree. So with that, Thanksgiving was over.

Two Great Chicken Recipes

September 30, 2013 at 10:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Every month or so I peruse Allrecipes.com for new inspirations to try on my family. And while sometimes we hit a home run (VooDoo Sticks comes to mind), other times I have to get creative in altering the recipe to our liking. Reading over the comments helps tremendously. So instead of simply linking to my two favorite chicken recipes, I’ve altered them so much that I really should just rewrite them here. These are also great to plan in the same week so you can use up the whole bunch of cilantro that usually just rots in your fridge. I’m in no way a gourmet cook…not even remotely close. So I hope my interpretations make sense. Feel free to deviate if my way is too idiotic. Or alcoholic.

1374270_668180103192107_1891637457_nChicken Encilantrada
Serves 2-3

Ingredients:
1 TBSP vegetable oil
1 chicken breast, shredded
1 TSP cumin
1 TSP garlic salt
Dash of lime
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 (7 oz) can green salsa or fresh tomatillo sauce (I just used the canned)
1/2 cup chicken broth (optional)
2 servings cooked rice
1/4 cup (or more) shredded cheddar
1 glass of wine (for consumption purposes only)

Directions:

  1. Pour glass of wine.
  2. Cook chicken and shred it. My method is to poach it in a skillet and chop it up in a food processor. Season shredded chicken with cumin, garlic salt, and lime juice
  3. Drink wine.
  4. Heat oil in skillet on medium heat. Add onion and saute until soft, then stir in cilantro. Add green salsa/fresh tomatillo sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes.
  5. Wine break.
  6. Add cooked chicken. If it’s not looking “saucy” enough for you, add 1/2 a cup (or less) of chicken broth. I chose to leave it out, mostly because who has 1/2 a cup of chicken broth laying around? Cook through.
  7. Another glass of wine, perhaps?
  8. Serve over rice and tortilla chips. Add your desired amount of cheese. And if you get inspired and you’re not too drunk, you can garnish with more cilantro.

So, I was quite proud of myself for this recipe, even stopping to take a photo, and I ate it with gusto. From James I got an, “It’s ok.” Then he put about a pound of cheddar cheese and some taco sauce on it. And from Liam I got a, “No way, Jose,” as he chomped away at his standard chicken fingers. I cook for Philistines!

999091Chicken Tikka Masala
Serves 3-4

Ingredients:
1 cup plain yogurt
1 TBSP lemon juice
2 TSP ground cumin
1 TSP ground cinnamon
2 TSP cayenne pepper
2 TSP freshly ground black pepper
1 TBSP fresh ginger (or ground ginger, because seriously, who buys fresh ginger only to use 1 TBSP?)
1 TSP salt
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 TBSP butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
2 TSP ground cumin
2 TSP paprika
1/2 TSP salt
1 (8oz) can tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 glass of refreshing white wine (again, just for consumption)

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, 2 TSP cumin, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, black pepper, ginger, and 1 TSP salt. Stir in chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  2. Pour yourself a glass of wine and RELAX. For, like, an hour.
  3. Preheat your oven to 475 degrees.
  4. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. This is usually the point where Liam looks up from whatever he’s doing and hollers, “What’s all that racket?!” because I’m going to town on jalapenos with my little red chopper. Quite cathartic. Don’t forget to wear those kitchen gloves!
  5. Saute garlic and jalapeno for 1 minute. Season with 2 TSP cumin, paprika, and 1/2 TSP salt. Stir in tomato sauce and cream. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. MEANWHILE, put the marinated chicken on a grill grate over a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
  7. Add the baked chicken and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with basmati rice and (VERY IMPORTANT, lest you wasted your cilantro purchase) garnish with cilantro. We also serve with garlic naan for dipping.

This recipe gets me a standing-O from James every time, but still a, “No way, Jose” from Liam. I’ll take those odds.

A week with Grandpa

July 6, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Our week with Grandpa Bob just flew by, and now that Liam’s down for his much-needed nap, I can share all the fun stuff we did. We had a lot of fun in the sun, which wasn’t James’ cup o’ tea. But he weathered it without too much complaint, despite the sunburns.

IMG_1019Saturday afternoon we spent at the pool, and with a little coaxing we got Liam to swim out in the deep water with daddy and grandpa. He’s still timid about leaving the steps, and he adamantly refused to go underwater. I figure he’ll have enough of that next Monday when we start up another round of swim lessons. Before I got him to leave the house, he modeled his little life jacket and swim ring for me. Of course, he wouldn’t actually wear them in the water. But at least I can see how freakin’ cute he is in them. Sigh. Maybe next summer.

On Sunday we headed to Lake Eola for the farmer’s market. I was one week too early for okra, but I picked up lots of fresh peaches, mangos, and tomatoes. Bob suggested we try brussel sprouts in lieu of okra, so we cherry-picked the smallest, most tender-looking specimens for Sunday’s dinner.

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We stopped at City Fish for lunch and a refreshing microbrew. It’s one of our favorite seafood joints, and conveniently right by the market. Yum! Because Bob was staying a little longer than he has in the past (which we love, by the way!), I decided to trot out our favorite dinner recipes. Sunday we grilled our awesomely spicy Haitian VooDoo Sticks, which we serve on pita bread with cucumber, tomato, and Archer Farms Tzatziki Yogurt Dressing. Bob sliced our fresh brussel sprouts in halves and sauteed them in olive oil with minced garlic, then topped them with shredded parmesan cheese. And let me tell ya, they were to die for! I’d tried brussel sprouts as a kid and hated them, and while my sister has always told me they’re way better fresh, I didn’t quite believe her. But I stand corrected! We will definitely be adding these puppies to the menu.

On Monday, to help James recover from his scalp and shoulder sunburn (my poor white boy), we took Liam to see Pixar’s new hit, Brave. Liam was so good during the movie, only once getting up to switch from daddy’s lap to mine. The steady stream of Reese’s Pieces probably helped, too. We all thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and Liam is still talking about “the girl with the red hair” and “the bear”. I was a little concerned he’d be scared during some of the fight scenes, but he seemed just fine. In general, Liam doesn’t seem too fazed by what he sees on TV. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

DSC_0002Tuesday we decided to trek to the beach. Last summer Bob, Liam and I had gone to Cocoa Beach on the Atlantic side. But because Liam and I had had such a fantastic time at Siesta Key, and Bob had such fond, but distant memories of Sarasota, we decided to try Clearwater on the gulf coast. Bob was jonesing for some Cuban sandwiches, so with a little googling, we found Columbia Restaurant in Clearwater. Bob remembered eating at their location in Sarasota years ago, so it was settled. We arrived just in time for lunch. We got a table right by the water, with lovely views of the inlet. We all ordered their famous Cuban Sandwiches, their 1905 Salad, and James tried the Spanish Bean soup. Best Cubans we’d ever tasted! After deciding to save half our sandwiches in the cooler for later, we indulged in dessert: James with Churros and caramel, chocolate, and guava dipping sauces; Bob with white chocolate bread pudding; and me with the Key Lime Pie. We sampled from each other’s plates, and I thought the bread pudding was the most outstanding. Best of all, as we were enjoying our meal, a couple of manatees lumbered by, and we watched them from the railing. Very cool!

Then it was on to the beach! We drove up Clearwater Beach a ways, but being July 3rd, the place was packed. We opted instead for the less crowded Sand Key, which was just south. Our waiter had told us it was a broken shell beach, so we knew it wasn’t going to be anything like Siesta Key. While the sand was disappointing, the water was not. Once you got past the small shells in the short break, you could walk quite a ways out and still keep your head above water. I’d never been that deep in the ocean with Liam before – I’ve always been nervous about taking him past the break when I’m by myself. But with Bob, James and I passing him around, it was actually quite nice. And the water was so warm! But full of seaweed – perhaps from the tropical storm that had hit that beach the previous week. Back on shore, James and I took turns building sand castles so Liam could knock them down. The sand was quite course, with an interesting salt and pepper color to it. Digging down a few inches, the shells became more apparent. I’m starting a sand collection in little glass bottles, and the Sand Key sand looks quite interesting, especially sitting next to my fine, white Siesta Key sand. I’m such a Midwesterner, I had no idea beach sand from the same general area could be so different!

For Independence Day, we stayed home and cooked another of our favorite meals, Tuscan Sausage Ragu. After dinner, we headed to downtown Avalon Park to see the fireworks. James wasn’t feeling up to going (surprise, surprise), and just as well – it was packed! I decided to park in the grass pretty far back rather than hunt for a closer spot. We checked out some of the booths, then headed back to the car in time to get our chairs out and watch the fireworks. Liam absolutely loved it! This is the first time I’ve actually taken him to see big fireworks, unless you count the time last December when I walked him in the stroller down the street far enough to see them just over the trees. He’s talked about that for months, so I figured he’d like to see them a little closer this year. When the show was over, we packed up the car, and as I was strapping Liam into his car seat, I suddenly felt like my feet were on fire! I’d stepped on a fire ant hill in the dark…in sandals. Let me tell you. That shit hurts. After much cursing and ripping off of shoes and slapping my feet like a lunatic, I managed to get myself composed enough to drive us home. In bare feet, mind you. And I had to off-road it to bypass the nasty traffic. From the back seat, Liam said, “Mommy, are you going to cry?” I told him, “Maybe. This doesn’t hurt quite so bad as childbirth, but, geez, feels like almost!” My feet were still stinging when I got home, but after slathering them with some cooling Benadryl, I took Liam to sit in the drive way and watch our neighbors shoot off roman candles. He seemed just as impressed by that as with the big fireworks. Of course.

Intent on avoiding the Disney/Universal/Sea World corridor, on Thursday we took Bob to Winter Park, a trendy, upscale area with shops and restaurants. We arrived just as the Amtrak was pulling into the train station in the adjacent park, so Liam, of course, went bananas. For lunch we stopped at our favorite Orlando restaurant, Bosphorous Restaurant, for some delicious Turkish fare. This time I tried the Moussaka – ground lamb, eggplant, and cheese served with rice. Heaven. Again we decided to save half our meal for dinner and indulge in dessert. While James and his dad enjoyed their rice puddings, it was nothing compared to the new thing I decided to try: Kunefe. It was a huge plate of shredded phyllo dough, sweet cheese, and a sweet sauce. They threw in a few whole pistachios for good measure. Wow.

Aside from eating well, we spent most of the rest of the week at home, where Liam would take grandpa upstairs and play trains. Or he’d follow grandpa out to the back porch to play in the sand box. Wherever grandpa was going, Liam was going, too. James and I got chastised for lingering too long. “Daddy, you can go now.” Or, “Mommy, go inside!” Liam wanted grandpa all to himself. After brunch at Keke’s today, we explained that we were dropping grandpa off at the airport so he could go back to Illinois. Liam pondered this a moment, then said, “But I’ll play with him tomorrow, then.” Poor kiddo. I have a feeling tomorrow morning’s going to be a tough one, explaining that grandpa isn’t here anymore. But grandpa will be back soon. We promise.

A Quest for Toddler Nutrition

November 16, 2011 at 11:34 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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I started out so well. I made Liam baby food with my blender and some simple recipes. As he grew older, I baked my own finger foods. I bought freeze-dried peas, corn, mangoes and bananas. I shopped at the farmer’s market every weekend and bought fresh produce – blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes.

But then as Liam approached two, I found it increasingly difficult and frustrating to toil in the kitchen making wholesome goodies just to have him heartily reject my creations. Cheddar broccoli balls? No. Mini turkey meatballs? No. Nana Cakes, which he had been eating greedily for months and months? Suddenly, no way, mama! (I found all of these recipes plus the baby food recipes here, in case you wanted to try them at your own risk!)

That’s when I resorted to Easy Mac, Chef Boyardee, and Tyson chicken fingers. Occasionally I could get him to eat what James and I were eating for dinner. But many of our favorite meals are either too spicy or too hard for him to chew. He still eats freeze-dried veggies and fruits, thankfully. But he won’t touch anything fresh. He’s even refusing grilled chicken in favor of the processed breaded kind.

Feeling we were in a dietary rut, I decided to try making these muffins I found on allrecipes.com. I’d made them once before with so-so results, so I decided to make the full recipe and enlist Liam’s help in the kitchen. He watched as I grated zucchini and carrots. He helped me pour the flour, whisk the eggs, and measure out the ingredients. He pointed to each container and asked, “What’s that?” He was having so much fun! Finally the muffins were ready for tasting – 48 mini-muffins in all. He took one look at it, spied a tiny piece of orange carrot, and insisted I pick it out. Great. I tried telling him they were orange sprinkles, but he wasn’t having it. Smart kid. After picking through all the orange pieces, he finally gave it a try…and then declared, “Mommy, I don’t like that.”

To his credit, the muffins were a bit bland. I had followed the advice of some of the commenters, taking out the sugar and using all whole wheat flour. I didn’t have quite enough honey, so the muffins weren’t terribly sweet. Kind of salty, actually. Ok, Liam. Fair enough. Mommy doesn’t like these, either. Into the trash they went.

The next day I decided to start over. I grated the carrots much smaller this time, then did my best to color them with food coloring. I figured green and orange would make brown…but evidently it makes green, ha ha. I threw in some blue, red, and yellow for good measure. Nope, still green. Liam doesn’t much like green food either, and these carrots were starting to look like dreaded spinach! Liam asked what I was up to. “I’m making you special green muffins, honey. With no carrots.” That seemed to satisfy him. I put the sugar from the original recipe back in, then used maple syrup instead of honey. Mixing in the green carrots turned all of the batter green…successfully hiding the veggies in with the mix, which is what I was going for in the first place. I only made a 1/3 of the recipe this time, just in case.

Finally, the new, green, carrot-less (not really, shhhh!) muffins were ready for tasting. So far he’s had four. Huzzah, we’ve got a hit! My son is eating carrots! Yikes, he’s asking for a fifth. Perhaps I’ll need to make another batch!

Broccoli Cheddar Cheese Nuggets totally rock

February 5, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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James came home early on account of the snow, so I spent my afternoon making these broccoli cheddar cheese nuggets while James entertained Liam. They were a bit labor-intensive, and by the time I had them finished Liam was down for his afternoon nap. But I just sampled a few, and if Liam doesn’t wake up soon, he won’t get to try any! Actually, this made a ton, so I’m sure there will be some left for him to try at dinner. But if he doesn’t like them, I won’t mind. More for me! I’m not even a huge fan of broccoli, but I could eat these all day.

Here’s the recipe from WholesomeBabyfood.com, great for toddlers and grownups alike! One note: best to eat them right away. We discovered they’re not nearly as good reheated.

Broccoli & Cheddar Cheese Nuggets

Ingredients:

1 16-oz  Package frozen broccoli, cooked, drained, and chopped

1 cup Seasoned bread crumbs (you could try using baby cereal if you want, we know it works well with “baby meatballs”)

1 ½ cups Shredded cheddar cheese (please use real cheese and not a “processed cheese food” product.  Try tomato & basil cheddar.)

3  Large eggs – Most pediatricians say it’s ok to use whole egg in a baked good when baby is over 8-9 months old without allergies. We would recommend that you substitute 5 egg yolks for the whole eggs if serving this to those under 1 yr.  Ask YOUR pediatrician.

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 375 and lightly coat a baking sheet with olive oil and set aside.

2. Combine all remaining ingredients and mix well.
*Add seasonings if you  like – garlic powder, pepper, extra basil & oregano for example

3. Shape mixture into nuggets or fun shapes such as squares or squigglies etc..and place on baking tray. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, turn nuggets over after 15 minutes. Serve warm

Suitable for those who have had the ingredients and for those who can handle texture and mash foods with their gums.  Great for Moms & Dad too

New Year Randomness

January 4, 2010 at 11:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I don’t have anything very coherent to write, so I’m just going to bulletpoint some random musings as they occur to me. Here we go:

  • I’m so, so glad it’s finally 2010. Not because I’m anxious for new beginnings, but because I’m tired of saying “two thousand nine” or “two thousand eight.” Finally, I can say “twenty ten” and be done with it.
  • Long John Silvers is celebrating 40 years…yes, 40 years of gut-wrenching gluttony that for some reason I crave on a semi-regular basis. I’ve been hankering for a chicken plank all week, but the closest LJS is 20 miles from here. I thought I had it made coming back from the Baltimore airport today right at the lunch hour — according to the website there was a restaurant not too far out of the way back home. But ever since I spent $70 to upgrade the maps on our GPS, I’ve found it’s actually worse at locating the things I want. It stubbornly refused to map out the particular restaurant I wanted, and it wasn’t worth driving 30 miles out of the way. Never fear, I say to my very sorry gut, which will hate me come tomorrow. Liam is such a good boy at restaurants, I’m planning a little field trip to Fall Church, VA for lunch tomorrow. I have a feeling I’ll be dreaming of hush puppies tonight.
  • Speaking of the boy, he really took to Grandpa Bob this week, despite hanging on my pants and fussing for me at almost every turn. We’ll be headed back East in February, and I’m hoping Liam’s stranger anxiety eases up a bit. I love my son, but seriously, it’s like I’ve got a growth coming out of my hip lately. One that weighs 22 pounds.
  • Liam’s been giving me kisses. Wet, slobbery, open-mouthed infant kisses. But my favorite part is the little smile and shoulder snuggle he gives me afterward. Makes it feel less dirty.
  • Tomorrow marks the first day I’m officially the Stay-At-Home Mom. I don’t count today because James had the day off. Although, I really should, since James spent the entire afternoon playing his new video game. The house is in desperate need of a scrub, and I’ve had to devise a plan of attack. Today during his afternoon nap, I tackled the bathrooms and the kitchen surfaces. Tomorrow morning I’m relatively certain I can dust between first and second breakfasts. We’ll see how vaccuuming goes — he’ll either sleep through it, or scream in his crib while I do the deed. I asked my mom how she ever got the house cleaned with a toddler running around the house. Of course, she can’t remember.
  • My New Year’s dinner turned out decently well — the CostCo ham was awesome, the green bean casserole delectable, mom’s sweet and sour carrots totally yummy, and the canned cranberry sauce was the same as ever. But I got a little creative with the stuffing, and it turned out more like croutons. James loved it, so I guess it was a hit. Next time, I’ll try adding chicken stock. Dessert was fantastic — we used our abundance of karo syrup from Liam’s bottles and the recipe we found on the back of the package to make a pecan pie. Actually, I should give James credit — he made it while I entertained the baby. And it was so good. So much better than store bought.
  • I’m reading Audrey Neffeneggar’s new book Her Fearful Symmetry. She wrote my all-time favorite novel The Time Travelers Wife. I’m enjoying her follow-up, although I’m befuddled by the British spelling and grammar rules and her use of ten-dollar words that I have to guess the meaning of by the context. That’s one of my pet peeves with some writers — feeling like I need to grab a dictionary every other paragraph gets annoying after awhile. I don’t remember having to do that with her first novel. The writing and story of this second novel are good enough, though, I’m willing to let it slide.
  • I hate New Year’s resolutions. I really do. And I’ve decided this year to pointedly ignore any attempt to eat better, lose weight, save money, or anything else that falls into the “resolution” category. If my actions just so happen to shed me a few pounds or save us a few bucks, so be it.

A trip to the zoo

October 11, 2009 at 9:44 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My! Actually, just the lions. And the Oh My! Liam and I had our first trip to the National Zoo this morning. We were supposed to meet up with one of my mom’s groups, but we were a little late, so it ended up being just Liam and I. We stuck to the big animals, seeing as Liam was mostly more interested in the people around us than the animals, lol. We saw two pandas, two elephants, two lions, a handful of gorillas, one high-flying orangutan, and a whole mess of gorillas. My favorite was the new baby gorilla, who was clutching onto her mommy’s fur as she circled their enclosure. I picked up Liam so he could see, and I said, “Look, it’s just like us! Except I’m less hairy.” There was one male silver back who kept chasing the others around. Quite a show! Also quite a show was the orangutan we saw climbing above the walkway on a rope they had strung across a line of towers. The apes could move freely from one enclosure to another above the park. Liam, of course, was too interested in clapping and blowing raspberries to look up. When we finally arrived at the prairie dogs, which I was sure he’d love (just like his dad), he’d fallen fast asleep! Being the thoughtful mom I am, I parked us at a nearby bench to let him sleep, and we got to see them when he woke up. I was like, “Loooook (pointing), he’s right there.” And Liam would look at my finger. And then the little boy next to us. When we got to the pandas, I got all excited because it was less crowded than I’ve ever seen it, and we had a wonderfully clear view of both of them. I pointed out, “Look, like Kung Fu Panda!” Some lady came up next to us to shoot photos, and Liam was way more fascinated with her camera. So, ok, I guess Liam’s a little too young to enjoy the zoo just yet. But James has promised he’ll come along next spring or summer, and I bet Liam will be more interested in the animals then.

In other news, James and I christened our new slow cooker today. We bought a wonderfully simple slow-cooker cookbook, something with “five ingredients or less” in the title, and we made a scrumptious cranberry pork tenderloin. I whipped up some instant potatoes, stuffing, and frozen corn in no time, and because of Liam’s late nap, we were actually able to fit in dinner before he woke up. Sweet! On Wednesday I’m headed back to Let’s Dish to try a couple of slow-cooker meals. We learned a lesson from last time — best to pick either the slow cook meals or the ones with the simplest preparation instructions. Dinner time is so hard with a baby! I’m sure it’ll get easier once he’s eating our food…maybe. We’re also incredibly lazy cooks, so that doesn’t help.

Grandpa Marvin turns 80 next weekend, and my mom and aunt have planned a huge family party. We’re headed to KC on Friday for the festivities. Liam will get to meet cousins, second cousins, third cousins, great-grandparents, great aunts, the whole shabang. And, best of all, he’ll get to sample some Kansas City barbecue sauce, now that he’s old enough. I’m sure that will make the most lasting impression, heh. We can’t wait!

Son of a Monkey’s Uncle!

September 30, 2009 at 9:27 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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So it looks like I won’t be breaking my mom’s record number of years before her first speeding ticket. Dammit. So stupid, too, because I saw the speed trap by Karen’s house yesterday, and I even thought, whoa, I better watch for that. But this morning I was running late for yoga class, and I could see I was going to make the green light if I just sped up a little, and, well, there you go. The cop was nice — I couldn’t find my registration, so he just gave me a verbal warning, and he reduced the fine for me, probably because it was my first ticket. I’d say 16 years is a decent record for no tickets….certainly better than James, AKA Speeding Ticket Magnet.

So I missed yoga class…but just as well, as I’m feeling kind of nauseous this morning. Yesterday I tried Let’s Dish, and while I had loads of fun putting the meals together, I really didn’t like the meal we ate last night. It smelled good, and it even looked good. But James says he cooked it longer because he was afraid the rice wouldn’t be done, so the shrimp was way overdone for me. And apparently I’m not a huge fan of chick peas. However, James liked it, so he says he’ll eat the leftovers. Just thinking about it this morning made me queasy. Ick. Let’s hope our three other meals fair better.

Weekend Update

September 19, 2009 at 9:35 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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All week Liam’s been practicing his B’s, D’s, M’s and R’s, enough so that I even caught some video of it. But this morning while playing in our bed, he clearly looked up at James and said, “Da da!” Put a big ol’ grin on da da’s face. Our boy’s a talkin! We think he’s a teethin’, as well. Probably the top teeth, this time. Poor lil guy was all stuffy and slobbery today.

On Thursday I decided I needed a break from all my freelance business worrying, so I went to see the new Harry Potter movie. The Hench Aussie warned me there were a lot of changes from the book, but I still enjoyed it. It was nice to lose myself in a movie. And eat some buttered popcorn. James and I will be celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary this Saturday, so we’re hoping Alice can come babysit. I’m sure we’ll do something thoroughly unoriginal, like dinner and a movie. We’re both too stressed and exhausted to come up with anything romantic to do. We’re both going through a tough time in our careers, and it’s times like these that I marvel at how truly lucky I am to have married my hubby. He fixes what’s broken, even when he’s not clear how. He calms me down when I get overwhelmed. He’s endlessly patient with me when I’m upset about something and I take it out on him. And while, yes, he drives me crazy with all of his book-buying, and he’s about the laziest cook I’ve ever known (I’m the second laziest, heh), I can’t imagine anyone else I want to grow old with.

Speaking of lazy cooking, I’ve decided it’s time we try out Let’s Dish, a service I heard about through one of my mommy groups. I first heard about this concept a few years ago, but it seemed lavish at the time. Now James and I barely have the time and energy to cook dinner each night, and we find ourselves eating out more than ever. At about $5 per serving, we’d be spending about as much as we do eating out, and this food is a lot healthier. I’m still a little unclear about how this all works, but as long as it means an easy, healthy meal each night without the hassle of planning, I’m willing to try anything.

Today I bought a day planner. Yes, I know, how 1994 of me. Blackberries kind of scare me, to tell you the truth. This is all part of my effort to Get Organized (triple underlined and taped to my desk.) I’ve langished the last two weeks over the multitude of things I’m trying to accomplish, and I think planning out every hour of my day will help keep me on track. I’ve been feeling completely ADD lately, easily distracted by incoming emails, IM, phone calls, other, less important, tasks on my list. This book has been immensely helpful so far, and I’ve also got another book all about pricing that will make a very handy reference. Contracts, billing, taxes….it’s enough to make your head spin! But one thing I’ve taken away from my reading is that a successful business isn’t built overnight. I need to take one step at a time. I need to focus on each task at hand and complete it before moving to the next. And while I’m facing the most challenging career point I’ve encountered thus far, I’m also facing an opportunity to attain that life balance I’m desperate to have. One where I’m a mother and a graphic artist, and I have the freedom to choose the time I spend in each of those roles. It might mean less money, but Liam will only be a baby once in his life, and you can’t put a price on that.

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