Saturday, February 27, 2010

Quilt

This whole week, dinner has been a combo of thrown together at the last minute and kids' choice. But I did finish this:


This is a quilt made from Sam's crib sheets. I think it turned out fantastically.
Many of his baby things I was able to pass on, either to my nephews or to the SalVal, but I was having a hard time letting go of these, until I got this idea.

I had to add some fabric to the back (not in the picture) to fill it all in, but I used almost every piece of fabric. I think it really helps that most of these are Pottery Barn Kids sheets so they coordinate. And there was a duvet cover I bought of ebay (just after I registered for these sailboat sheets, they were discontinued) that Sam used for awhile in his toddler bed.

And then I found an almost complete other quilt top in my stash so I whipped that together last night and once I can get to Joanne's I'll get batting and start quilting that. My mother-in-law taught me to hand piece and hand quilt but I have found happiness in machine piecing. It goes together so fast and right now, at this stage of my life, fast is good. Projects can get done and dinner (sometimes) can get made.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Brinner

More by accident than design, tonight we had breakfast for dinner. Kate had seen a picture of chocolate waffles in a magazine and asked for them (this was a few days ago) so I made those for the kids and Craig and I cobbled together an assortment of eggs, breads, and sausage for us.

Now. What's up for tomorrow night?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Crock Pot meal

I was so proud of myself for getting supper in the crock pot yesterday before we headed down to the Museum of Science in Boston. I had a weird kind of apprehension about it but I marked it as good so I proceeded. I forget what it's called but it's meat and cream of mushroom and onion soup mix and then you put potatoes on top. It smelled good.

It smelled great when we got home. Craig was late. I dished some out for S & K and took a bite. The meat was pretty tough. And the potatoes looked gross (and I love potatoes). Sam (of course) could barely swallow it. But he loved the potatoes. Kate was practically beside herself with anger that I would put potatoes on her plate but she ate all her meat and had seconds. I gave Sam waffles. I ate a little of it, but wasn't wild about eating it myself so felt like I couldn't make him eat it.

Craig came home, ate it, and said how good it was. And then it became clear to me: I must not have liked it too much before but since he did, I wrote down that it was good.

I think I'm just going to get rid of that cookbook (it's called the Busy People's Slow Cooker cookbook) and there's really only one thing in there that we consistently like. It just takes up space on the shelf.

Tonight, noodles with butter. and Parmesan. Craig and I had "pasta with meat sauce." I can't think of anything to make. I go through phases where I'm motivated to cook and find some new recipes that are good and mix in some old favorites . . . and then I get tired of it and muddle through a week or two until I find my groove again.

I have no idea what we're going to eat tomorrow night.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Chuck E. Cheese Ruined My Day

or, If I Ever Go to Chuck E. Cheese Again It Will Be Too Soon.

It is school vacation week in the state of New Hampshire. I still find this a phenomenon, even after living up here for 12 years: that the last week in February and the last week in April are school vacations. No school. Supposedly (file this under Old Wives' Tales, I'm sure) it's to break the cycle of sickness; that by getting the kids out of the enclosed classrooms the flu can't take hold.

Something like that.

When I taught I loved if from a not having to face the daily grind viewpoint, but from a lesson continuity viewpoint, it was not so good.

A disappointment that surfaced this year is that apparently the northern part of the state doesn't have the same week off so we couldn't go visit my nephews.

Anyway. A woman who I know from church (and would like to get to know better) invited me and the children to Chuck E. Cheese's this week. I hate CEC. But, we live kind of far from this family and Sam gets along with the older boy so I figured we could have our once-a-year visit.

Remember, it's school vacation.

The place was mobbed (as if it's ever not. I really don't understand who goes there. If everyone only went there once a year, as we do, surely it would go out of business. Wouldn't it?). At one point, there were people lined up at the entrance to get in. I guess the place was at capacity and someone would have to leave before any more could come in.

Let me digress here to say that CEC does get the "kid check" thing right. The children and parents each get a matching ultraviolet number stamp that they check before leaving. Some of the indoor playgrounds I've taken them to don't even care if a kid walks out the door unsupervised.

So I had a great time talking to the mom, getting to know her better, discussing kindergarten issues, potty training issues (we both have 3-yr-olds, too), husbands working late, how mobbed the place was, etc. The older boys were obsessed with a roller coaster ride thing (with a screen and moving seat) while the younger ones did a pretty good job of not running off into the crowd. We ate pizza (the pizza there is good, maybe to provide a little window of solace for all the aggravated mothers) and tried to navigate the land of ill-behaved and unmonitored children while not saying overtly negative things about them that our children would overhear and repeat.

And then it was time to leave.

Both my children were fussing and complaining and then there was screaming in the car and I had to pull over . . . it was not pretty. I was aggravated that we'd stayed there so long and annoyed at their entitled behavior. They were (most likely) tired and overstimulated. I totally lost it and screamed at them (I told you it wasn't pretty).

I was still aggravated when we got home and sent them to opposite parts of the house and took three Tylenol. I did go talk to each of them individually and tell them I should not have screamed and I was sorry. We also talked about "doing everything without complaining and arguing" and the right response when it's time to leave somewhere. Then I took 3 ibuprofen.

Then, because it was nice (for February in New England that means 45), we went over to a nearby middle school that has a track and they rode their scooters on the tennis court because the track had a sign about no bikes or wheeled things.

We came home and I took more Tylenol. The rest of the night was fine and ultimately I did get to everything on my to-do list (main source of my irritation was that list mocking me for my ambitions), but I plan to assiduously avoid the house of the pizza mouse from now on.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

First Ride

I got her the handlebar flower-shaped pinwheels with iridescent tassels, because it's her brother's hand-me-down bike.

I did not get her the pink princess bike horn, because it was obnoxiously loud.
She's asked for it at least 114 times since yesterday.
I really wanted her to be wearing the "old" helmet in these pictures, but it wasn't easily presenting itself so I put the "new" helmet on her. (If she'd been wearing the other one, her pictures of her first bike ride would match Sam's.)
She really needed mittens, which I got after I took this.


This is pretty much what I saw. She wanted me to "help" her, which meant pushing the bike so she could pedal without actually expending any effort.

She refused to smile.


"Say sushi," I said.
"That's for basketball!" she told me.
But I got the grin.
("Sushi" being what the photographer told Sam's basketball team to say for the team picture.)

Not sure why I stuck my glove in front of the lens for this one.

She was actually yelling at me and getting off the bike. She was mad that I wasn't pushing. I didn't get a chance to re-take the shot.
This, of course, being not what we looked like most of the time. I considered trying to take a picture of our shadows while hunched over and pushing her, but I settled for this.








Saturday, February 20, 2010

Amish Friendship Bread

Last winter, at some point, Laurie gave me the starter to some Amish Friendship Bread. (Oh, who's Laurie, you say? She hasn't made a blog appearance before.) Technically, she's my husband's cousin. Fortunately we are also pretty good friends as
a) she lives about a mile from us and
b) her two oldest and Sam like to play together.

Anyway. Back to the AFB. I had done some kind of starter bread thing before and remembered having scads of bread around that no one was eating. So I didn't have high hopes.

This, as it turns out, was different.

The baked bread was fantastic. We'd finish the two loaves 5 or 6 days into the 10-day sit-on-the-counter-and-get-stirred-and-fed cycle.

So I kept it up for about 6 months, baking every 10 days, consuming bread that was not helping at all with the weight loss plan*. Sam loved it. Craig loved it. I loved it. I can't really say if Kate liked it or not . . . she marches to the beat of her own drummer. Have I told you that?

Then one day, when it was almost summer, I got tired of it and tossed the starter. Just gave up.

But when fall and then winter rolled around, I wanted to have it again. I have The Amish Cook and it has a starter recipe in it. So I tried it out, let it sit for 10 days, and baked.

The first batch was super dense and not quite right (and not just because I ran out of cinnamon and didn't sprinkle the top with cinnamon-sugar). For a variety of reasons I will not detail here (because I have a MIGRAINE and am waiting for Craig to get home from work [what's that? you say? It's Saturday. Why is he working? Well, first of all, stop interrupting. I started a blog so I could ramble on at my leisure and second of all we're glad he has a job even if it means being called into work on the weekends.]), I went back to the directions from last year's success bread and baked again and it was good. Almost exactly right. I'm going to give this starter a few more rounds to see if the final product taste improves. My theory is that since I made the starter and it's undivided/undiluted, the yeast taste is more prominent.

So that's it. If you're local and want a starter from me, I'm on day 3. So you have to wait until day 10; that's when it gets divided and baked. If you just want to come over and eat super-good diet-busting carbs, call first. I may leave you with the kids and go to the mall.

*the weight-loss "plan" being occasional exercise effort coupled with amazement that I don't wear a 4 anymore and haven't for years. Truthfully (maybe this should be a post of its own?) I don't want to be a 4 because I looked like a bobble-head. Not only that, but I like my body so much more now than then, just not the pooch that insipires people to occasionally inquire if I'm expecting. EXPECTING TO LOSE WEIGHT, I tell them.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"I had all this extra felt . . ."

OK, so I had to go to Joanne's for the felt, but I couldn't pass up the chance to quote Dr. Doofenshmirtz, could I?

Today I made these:





Super cute, huh? They had a little tutorial on Nick Jr. and Kate was really obsessed with them. It was presented as a mom/kid activity but let me tell you, it was all me. There was a lot of cutting and tracing and more cutting. And Kate asking if she could paint or something and I had to tell her 'no' as all my focus was on the cutting and tracing and cutting and gluing and I couldn't supervise her doing another activity.

I will give you a few tips if you want to make your own but the biggest suggestion I can give you is this: DON'T.

Should you not take my advice and want to make your own, the directions and templates are here and here.

My tips:

1. Do this while your toddlers are asleep. At least cut out the patterns and trace them onto the felt and then cut out the felt.


2. The glue stinks. It works really well but I'm pretty sure the fumes knocked out several of my functioning brain cells. And I think when it says 'use in a well-ventilated area' that they don't mean the basement.

3. It took about an hour to make. That was with all the asking for other activities, Kate confiscating nostrils and eyeballs, taking a break to meet the bus, and keeping Kate from cutting off Zee's legs before I finished Moose. Add another 10 minutes or so for getting the glue off your fingers.

She was happy with them when they were finished.

She has really bad ragamuffin hair in these pictures. I've been known to stage rooms for pictures I want to post, but I couldn't summon the energy to comb her hair to get these pictures. I had to move on to the Amish Friendship Bread (I should do a post on that. Stay tuned.)


Here she's having them kiss. She even took them to bed with her. I hope they survive the night.

Then I had to vacuum up all the little scraps of felt from the floor, collect what was left, and find a place for it in my awesome new cabinet.


My in-laws made this. This is just the top part. There's a bottom part for kid games & puzzles & stuff. My FiL does the woodwork and my MiL paints. This literally is a dream come true. You know what else is great about it? I have everything I want in it and there's still some room. They are awesome.

Here it is in the room:


This is our basement. I did some staging but didn't straighten the sofa slipcover. It never stays unwrinkled anyway. How perfect is that cabinet? We wrote down the dimensions I wanted, even down to a shelf with enough space for me to stash my scrapbook albums. They have never had a home and now they do. Happiness.

And now, for those of you who read to find out if my children ate dinner: Last night I roasted a chicken (such a favorite of mine, and tastes fantastic with so little effort. You just have to get the bird in the oven with enough time to cook). I talked to Craig about 4:41 and he said he wasn't coming home due to the snow and traffic. I had to agree that, with road conditions and the time it would take to get home, it was probably better for him not to come. But oh so disappointed. So I mashed potatoes and made gravy and served it to me and the kids.

Sam's initial, gut response to hearing we were having chicken: "I don't like chicken."

He ate it and liked it.

Kate needed much more encouragement to eat but eventually did.

Tonight, I planned on lasagna roll-ups. But I didn't want to start unless I knew Craig was on his way. PLUS, I had to start the Amish Friendship Bread (it was baking day). So I made ravioli for them and they ate it; Sam declaring he loved them and Kate with (wait for it) some encouragement. Plus some applesauce for a nod at nutrition.

So all in all some good eating days.




Sunday, February 14, 2010

Notes to Self

Do not let cereal get so low that you have to make pancakes on a Sunday morning or no one eats before church.

First drink the coffee, then make the pancakes.

If the first two sets of pancakes on the griddle burn, drink more coffee.

Try not to take it (too) personally if the Sunday School teacher asks if you daughter ate breakfast because she was hiding under the table eating crayons. She had pancakes, lady.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Kids' Choice

Kids' Choice is when we have leftovers for supper or Craig is going to be really late and they get to choose what they want. It is just like old times for them. Last night Craig was late and it was leftover night. Kate had . . . hmmm, actually can't remember. She hasn't been eating much lately . . . oh right. 4 bites of mac-n-cheese. Sam had another bowl of clam chowder.

You may have felt the earth stop spinning for a moment last night; it was just Sam agreeing to eat reheated clam chowder.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Prayer

I started a post about prayer awhile ago but it ended up sounding pretentious and boring so I gave up on it. But the idea stayed with me so I'm going to try again.


I find myself praying about things all day. Insignificant things: finding my earrings, finding the remote, Kate to fall back asleep at 5:2o when I hear her little feet, finding my keys, a quick "O Lord help me" when I feel myself teetering on the edge . . .

Notice a theme? I pray to find things a lot. I learned this from my mom. I often find that after I pray, the next place I think of to look is where I find the item. Coincidence? Nope. I think it's God showing me where to look. And when the item doesn't show up right away (like the 20 minutes or so I spent looking for my diamond earrings and was beginning to think they were the "teeny thing" Kate had put in the gate), I find that I really have to stop and pray and then let go. Because He knows where things are. And He'll show me if He wants to.

I do pray for big things. I've been learning to have a set, focused time (usually in the morning but often there is a quiet little pocket of time after Kate goes down for her rest if I don't get to it first thing) of praying. I even have a list so I don't forget the things that I've told people I will pray for (but I have to say [I might have read about this on Stuff Christians Like, too] that if I say I will pray for something I try to pray for it right away so I am not a liar).

Back to the insignificant, I pray that I have the energy to get out of bed in the morning. I used to wonder why I wasn't bouncing out of bed, humming a tune, brimming with excitement and enthusiasm for the fun and educational things I was going to do with my children . . . and then I realized. God is giving me the energy to get out of bed. I'm getting up, aren't I? As in, standing on two feet and moving under my own locomotion. Maybe I need to work on my first-thing-in-the-morning attitude . But energy? Yes. He's giving me the energy.

I should recognize, too, that whether I think something's big or small, important or insignificant, we're told to cast all our cares on Him. He cares for us.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Clam Chowder

I am a New England transplant. I grew up way down south in Pennsylvania. It was a series of strange and uncanny events* that brought me up here and a husband who kept me here. It's a whole other post (series of posts, a la the Pioneer Woman's high heels to tractor wheels story).


At first, I tried to get Craig to move to PA to be near my family, and put even more effort into trying to get him to move to South Carolina so I could live near my sister. He objected to both because they are not near water. And he has a point.

So as time went on, and we had children, and I embraced winter sports and summers in Maine, apple picking in the fall and . . . I don't know what we do in the spring because spring is about 4 days long between winter and summer, I really began to become a New Englander. A Red-Sox loving, Patriots-rooting, lobster consuming (and cracking the shell all by myself), Nantucket-visiting, chowder-cooking New Englander.

Tonight, making clam chowder (and not opening a can of Snow's, either), I pulled some frozen bacon fat out and added it to my broth. I knew then that I had fully embraced living in New England, what with the Yankee thriftiness that action embodies. The woman who wrote out the recipe for me, the first week I was up here, suggested I keep bacon fat in the freezer for just that purpose.

Honestly, it's better with fresh bacon fat. But it was still good.

Sam ate it. Do I even need to tell you that Kate didn't?

*by strange and uncanny I mean now it's easy to see God's hand leading all the way.

Bugaboo Creek

We love Bugaboo Creek. We tried to go there a few weeks ago and there was a 30 minute wait so we didn't. We went last night and called ahead for call-ahead seating even though it was 5:00.

We have no patience.

Both children ate well, although Kate had a short phase of getting up after every bite and walking in a circle around her chair. And it's also very nice to go there now that no one gets hysterical when the moose or buffalo starts talking.

Tonight, Craig made buffalo wings. Apparently, the place he went to have the car inspected had Alton Brown on and he (AB) was making buffalo wings and this inspired Craig. They were very good. I gave the kids chicken nuggets and apples. Kate hid hers under a bowl.

She has a cold and hasn't been eating well.

I have pictures of Sam playing basketball and also some of the bows I've been making so I may get around to posting them. But if you really need some eye candy, go check out my brother-in-law's blog. I mean blart. I just don't know why he doesn't have me listed as a comrade or consort.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tortellini Meatball Soup

If you follow me on facebook (seriously, I just made myself fall over laughing typing that), you know this was a smashing success tonight. I should let you know that we picked out the tortellini and meatballs for S & K and had them eat that. And they are obsessed with cornbread so they had to eat (or taste) the other stuff first. Kate wolfed down her "meatbops" and the tortellini. Sam didn't like the meatballs, but he tried them.

Here's the recipe (since I am having huge problems posting this on FB):

I got this out of Country Home magazine.

Tortellini and Meatball Soup
1 c. Chopped Sweet Onion (1 small)
2 Medium Carrots (quartered lengthwise and sliced)
3 Cloves Minced Garlic
1 TBSP Olive Oil
1 32-oz. Container reduced-sodium or all-natural chicken or beef broth (or stock) (I used generic beef)
1/2 c. Water
1 Recipe Homemade Meatballs (see below) or 1/2 of a 16-oz. pkg. frozen Italian-style cooked meatballs
1 9-oz. Package of Refrigerated 4-Cheese Tortellini
1 tsp. Italian Seasoning, crushed
3 c. chopped fresh spinach leaves or 1/2 a 10 oz. pkg. Frozen Chopped Spinach (thawed and drained)
3 TBSP chopped Bottled Sweet Red Pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice (optional)
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 Tbsp snipped fresh basil (optional)

In a Dutch Oven cook and stir onion, carrots and garlic in hot olive oil until tender. Add broth and water and bring to a boil. Add meatballs, tortellini and Italian seasoning. Return to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 4 minutes. Add spinach and red pepper and lemon juice, if using. Simmer uncovered about 3 min more until tortellini are done. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in basil, if desired.

Meatball Recipe:
8-oz. Sweet Italian Sausage
1/3 c Fine Bread Crumbs
Combine ingredients. Shape into 36 3/4" meatballs - use melon baller for portioning. Use as directed, do not cook first.

Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Creamy Seafood-Parmesan Pasta

It's been awhile since I've made this and wanted something quick and easy and above all, edible. I gave Kate macaroni & cheese because I did not feel like fighting with her late-afternoon-crabby-because-she-wakes-up-at-5:30 AM self. But as I said here, this is acceptable to Sam.

He asked for seconds again.

So, I thought I'd put the recipe here so you can enjoy it, too. Today I forgot to get scallops and used all shrimp. And I never have the yogurt-based spread so we use butter (the one time I bought it it didn't seem to make a difference so we just go for full-fat/flavor). I got this out of Cooking Light Superfast Suppers.

Creamy Seafood-Parmesan Pasta

Prep: 3 minutes; Cook: 11 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 1/4 cups)

Ingredients
6 ounces uncooked medium egg noodles
8 ounces sea scallops
Cooking spray
1/2 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp
1 teaspoon seafood seasoning (such as Old Bay)
2 garlic cloves, minced or 2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half
2 tablespoons yogurt-based spread (such as Brummel & Brown)
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions (about 2)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation
Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.
Rinse scallops, and pat dry with paper towels.
Place a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat until hot. Add scallops, shrimp, seasoning, and garlic; cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until shrimp and scallops are done. Add half-and-half, yogurt spread, and green onions. Remove from heat. Add noodles and cheese, tossing to coat.

Sweets to the Sweet

(I have quite a few blog ideas rolling around in my head but for now that's where they'll stay. I was going to title this icing but then thought of this title, which is another Shakespeare reference and therefore a reference to my English-teaching roots).

Sitting here tired and frustrated, trying to ignore the 4 (or more) loads of laundry upstairs that need to be folded, wishing dinner would make itself and that I didn't have to go be in the nursery at church tonight, I realize that I have nothing* to put icing on.

Because I can't just eat icing out of the can, now, can I?

*By nothing I primarily mean pretzel rods, which are really good icing scoopers.

So I go in the kitchen and . . . eat icing off a spoon. I tried some on the biscotti but it's so much better on the pretzel rods (the whole sweet/salty thing).