Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Ups and Downs

This is a warning/disclaimer to any male readers not to continue reading this post. I'm not man-bashing; I just need to vent about some girl stuff - the "stuff" that usually makes you plug your ears with your fingers and run out of the room saying "la la la la la la la." You've been warned . . . oh, and please know that I'm very much aware I have two sons and that, based on the rather public nature of a blog, there's some potential for their friends to find out about it and possibly use the content as the subject of ridicule. I'm very conscientious of that fact and only hope that when they're actually old enough to have friends that read, this post will be long-archived, and they'll forgive my foray into the world of boobs. There, I said it.

Surely you're familiar with the movie, "St. Elmo's Fire." Like many of the 80s movies, it was full of bad hair and beautiful actors, with a predictable plot unfolding to a great soundtrack. In addition to the music though, the most memorable part to me is the scene where Mare Winnigham is making out with Rob Lowe (who's still hot, by the way), having held a secret flame for him like FOREVER, feeling like she just wasn't pretty enough, and now finding her dreams coming true. He slowly moves his hand up her leg, under her skirt, only to find . . . dum dum dum DUM - spandex. I related to her so much at that moment, remembering (um, still knowing) what it's like to try and play sexy knowing the truth of the jigglies and cellulite that lurk in dark places, waiting to out the sex kitten. One of the things I've never been self-conscious about, however, is my chest. "I'll never need a boob job," I said. "They're the perfect size and shape, even WITH one hanging a little lower than the other." "You go, girl!" Recently though that fantasy was shattered. As Dolly Parton so eloquently put it, "Time marches on, and sooner or later you realize it's marching across your face," or, in my case, across my chest.

Somehow I found myself naked AND in front of a mirror recently, and the shock on my face was priceless. (I'm extra thankful the mirror isn't full-length!!) Literally over night what once were firm melons (okay, maybe large naval oranges), now look something like over-stretched socks with half a lemon in the end. I used to giggle when my mom would forward an Eloise cartoon or some other "way-older-than-me-so-it's-funny" email about the trip the girls make south over time, but seriously . . . it's not funny any more. I'm watching what is literally the uplifting part of my youth slip slowly, or not so slowly, away and am wondering just how much WOULD a boob job cost anyway? It couldn't be that much, and I'm sure I could recover AND take care of a 9-month old, right?? There's no taking back the breast-feeding, or all the "free-breasting" I've done around the house . . . no undoing what gravity and time have done. Sigh. Please . . . let's take a moment to mourn the loss of my rack . . . and say a little prayer that the next time my husband rolls over to me in bed, hoping for a little intimate end to our day, his hands won't recoil at finding my supple breasts secured snuggly, and now PERMANENTLY, with spandex.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Thank you for dinner . . . that was a good dinner . . .

These are the words that, upon their utterance, allow me to rest easy in my dining chair knowing the meal I've so lovingly prepared was met with the ultimate praise . . . from my almost-four-year-old.   I must note before outlining the tasty dinner we had tonight that the pressure of having to take photos of my meals and document them here is making me stretch the creativity a little . . . green beans are pretty boring, but green beans with . . . oh, sorry . . . you'll have to wait until you get a little further into this post. 
First up, my herb-rubbed pork tenderloin was quickly browned in the pan before roasting in the oven.  I threw a couple of crushed cloves of garlic in the oil first, then removed them as they started browning, so I'd have some garlic-flavored oil for the tenderloin. 

These are the tasty fried bits of garlic that found a perfect home atop the mountain of cheddar mashed potatoes.  My green beans were quickly sauteed with green onions, a little soy sauce and lemon, and . . . wait for it . . . RADISHES!  I love radishes in salads, but I've never had them cooked, and they're like most root vegetables - they get sweeter when they're cooked a little.  Yum.   You can probably tell from the colorful spoon in the middle of my plate just who got to share my dinner with me. I really do need something other than white plates to make my food look at little more appetizing . . . sorry.

Lastly, I made a slow-cooker pudding inspired by a recent Rachel Ray recipe (yes, she's kind of annoying to me, but I don't think anyone would want to have to watch me on TV as much as that either). It was supposed to be a lemon/banana pudding, but my oldest son isn't partial to lemon, so I just used vanilla and a little cinnamon. The bananas were just getting ripe, so they kept their texture through the cooking process and got this nice caramelization on the bottom that when flipped over break up the otherwise bland color of the dessert. Of course, I was out of whipped cream and had to substitute . . . sniff, sniff . . . my BFF Haagen Daas Dulce de Leche ice cream on the side. As my husband says, that ice cream could make even a bowl of . . . well, you know . . . taste good. The texture of the "pudding" is more like a cakey-souffle. For this girl who likes all things creamy, custardy, and creme-brulee-y, it was the bomb.

TTFN! Here's hoping my next post is a Sewing Room update with my overdue paintbox blocks from last week!

Comfort Food

So, I made these last week in the worst of the throws of my illness, and they were a little better than regular oatmeal cookies because of the secret ingredient. Okay, the ingredient's NOT that secret, but it was a happy substitution I had to make for being out of pecans.  A few weeks ago, I was hurriedly pushing the buggy up and down the isles at the store with the big red dot and circle, with the name that rhymes with 'Flarget," doing one of the most forbidden activities in the shopping world - shopping while hungry. I managed to avoid most of the temptations, but I did swing by the "nut" isle looking for my dill pickle cashews, only to have my eye catch firmly (sounds painful doesn't it??) on the honey cinnamon almonds. THESE, my friends, are the secret ingredient in the oatmeal cookies. I adjusted the sugar a little to compensate for the sweet almonds, but the subtle bits of crunchy, cinnamon-coated almonds made these cookies the perfect calorie-free snack for me on what would have otherwise been a dumpy day . . . yeah, I said "calorie-free" because, like birthdays, calories don't count when you're sick, dammit! Oh, and Robin, I bet you can tell from the picture and my warm accompanying beverage who I'd like to be sharing them with! :-)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Basics

With the house returning to pediatric ward status (and Mama insisting the growing aches and congestion in her own body can NOT be sickness because there's just no time for such things), last night's dinner was a return to the basics, which for me means minimal effort, minimal dishes, etc. We had the perfect roasted chicken (thanks to Ina) that found its way to perfection by resting on a pile of carrots, fennel (coooooo-op), and onions. (** I must add here that I know many people who upon reading the word "fennel" started to feel a gag coming on. I'm not a huge fan of it raw myself, but you're missing out on something fabulous if you don't try it roasted. The roasting process tones down the licorice flavor significantly and yields a surprisingly sweet end product. Try it. You'll like it. Unless you're weird . . .). I served the chicken and veg with Mac-n-Cheese (a request by Mr. Sicky), and some green beans with bacon and red bell pepper. As usual, I didn't remember to take photos until AFTER I'd sat down at the table, but the chicken was something to behold - perfect color, perfect crispness on the skin, and perfect pan juices for dipping the pieces in, even though the chicken didn't need it. All in all, yummies for tummies all around. And now, I'm off to overdose on Vitamin C with a coffee chaser, praying I can just get through the next 8 hours until bed time. Sigh . . .

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


So, I've figured out this whole blogging thing - why I like it. I'm assuming you're like me, having random, semi-interesting thoughts or reminiscences throughout your day but never taking the time to really think about those things because they're quickly over-run with all the other demands on your time. Blogging is a way, or an excuse rather, to capture those thoughts (even if, like me, you might have to do it on paper sometimes :-)) so you can write about them later . . . oh, and more importantly, give birth to them and send them out into the universe where no one can argue with you! I digress, however; this morning I was thinking about a little plaque that used to sit over my Mimi's sink. You've probably heard or read the poem before. The most recognizable part of it goes, "Thank God for dirty dishes, they have a tale to tell. While others may go hungry, we're eating very well." It came into my mind because I was in my usual spot this morning, enjoying my coffee time, staring at the dishes in the kitchen which are taunting me, daring me to get out of my chair and just try to NOT do something constructive. I suspect there are a lot of people, moms in particular, who can relate to my coffee time. It's that time of the morning, after having hit the ground running much too early to get breakfast and pack lunches made, feeding the baby and the cats, finally sitting down to enjoy the meal you made (which is now cold, by the way), only to find that the family you had hoped to spend time with at the table is simultaneously wiping their mouths, shouting the obligatory "thank you for breakfast" and leaving you at the table alone while their own lives whisk them off into different directions. I know this is the plight of many moms, since I've witnessed it happen with most of the moms in my life, but I've learned to make the most of this alone time, at least after breakfast, because there's coffee time to look forward to. For a moment, I can block out the baby who's got to be getting bored of playing with the toys in his high chair by now, the kitty who's nuzzling my arm certain there must be some dairy products somewhere on the table I can share, (the same kitty who just left a nice hairball-induced mess that needs cleaning up to add to my chores for the day), oh, and the DISHES, while I nurse a monstrous cup of coffee until I've drained every last bit of the sludge from the bottom. It's coffee time. This, ladies and gentlemen, is where the magic happens. Whilst sipping my coffee, I answer the great philosophical questions about love and life, solve the world's hunger problem, and calculate just how long the pan that's been sitting on the stove since yesterday will need to soak to get all the grits off without having to scrub. Today this magical time is consumed with thoughts of my Mimi. Maybe it's because my baby reminds me so much of her . . . or maybe it's the aforementioned grits since I enjoyed many grits-related meals with her over the years. Maybe it's because I'm thinking about how many times I watched her wash dishes while I ran off to watch TV and it's making me a little less resentful of the task that awaits. After all, I'm bigger than they are and I can take 'em, no problem. So today, I'm thanking God for my dirty dishes, the food on my table and in my family's bellies, for fond memories of my Mimi . . . and for dishwashers.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Food, Glorious Food

Well, Happy Valentine's Day from my happy tummy to yours! The holiday today followed on the heels of a stressful evening for us, having had our oldest son running an unexplained temperature of over 104 degrees throughout the night last night. (Thank you to those parents who sent their sick kiddo to school this week with a special "happy-first-week" present for my baby)! I had a very rare night of snuggling in bed with the little guy, although the imagined, cozy version of that event is much better than the reality of a tossing, turning little dude who likes to talk a lot in his sleep and who has unnaturally sharp toenails like his Papa. Needless to say, between that bedfellow, a husband whose allergies have him snoring this week, and the cuddle cat who literally likes to lay on my face during the winter, it wasn't the restful night sleep I needed. Thankfully there's coffee . . . oh, and more importantly, his fever was short-lived today; he even managed to get a couple of valentines made. He was not however feeling well enough to enjoy today's food. For breakfast, we had strawberry muffins drizzled with white chocolate and a heart-shaped frittata with bacon, red peppers, spring onions (thank you, co-op) and cheese. Yes, I know the heart shape is kinda over-the-top, but really, why have kids if you can't do silly things like that? For lunch, we had what we were GOING to have for supper last night before the house transformed to a pediatric ward - pork chops with an arugula pesto and mashed cauliflower (and, yes, that's a Woodchuck Cider lurking behind the plate that gave the food a happy, bubbly trip send-off to my tummy). I have to say the pesto MADE these chops today. I used arugula (thanks again, co-op), toasted cashews, parmesan, salt and EVOO, and the arugula/cashew combo is something to make your taste buds tingle (I can't wait to use the leftovers with some pasta later this week). The richness and slight sweetness to the cashews married perfectly with the arugula. It's almost 11 pm, and I'm still thinking about it. The pork chop juices and pesto mingled well with the the cauliflower too (COOOO-op) which was tasty too . . . I've made it in the past and wasn't real thrilled with it, but this recipe (adapted from Guy's on the Food Network website) was a great alternative to mashed potatoes. It uses part roasted cauliflower which I think made the difference. This would have been good with grits too. For supper, we were still too full to enjoy the surf-n-turf dinner I had planned, so I'll post photos of that tomorrow night if there's anything noteworthy . . . and now, as the day winds down, I think I'm going to put my laptop away a little early (I know 11 pm's not early, but it sounds better in my closing), see if my hubby will do the same (bye bye WoW), and hopefully have a little time for us to enjoy together before the work-week reality hits again in the morning. Happy early President's Day, y'all (whatever the heck that is)!

Paintbox Quilt Along Blocks - Weeks 3 and 4

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I always sew more when I can because I never know when I'm going to fall behind from one week to the next. Despite all the distractions the last two weeks, I managed to complete 16 blocks, which means with the 4 I was "ahead," I'm now exactly where I should be - 40 blocks down, 40 blocks to go. I'm still happy with the color combinations and with my continued improvement in the relative "squareness" of the squares. Yesterday, I attended my long-awaited machine quilting class where I experimented for the first time with free-motion quilting. Although it was a long day of sewing (6 whole hours), I left with a serious headache, and the samples I worked on were more frustrating than "freeing," I still learned an awful lot and am anxious to spend more time improving my skills. I'm sure it will be awhile before I subject one of my quilts to the madness of my free-motion hands, but I have a good panel to practice on and look forward to building my confidence. Machine Quilting Part II, here I come! Oh, and because I feel the need to spend some of my designated sewing time (which generally must coincide with baby naps), to something other than this project, I'm going to work on a blooming nine patch I started for my hubby way too long ago to remember. Stay-tuned for updates on that project!

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Martha Moment

I don't have them often, and they're definitely more like "moments" than long-term possessions of her creative spirit, but I got inspired Martha-Stewart-style to create these cute valentines for my son's school. (I must add as an aside I actually heard Ms. Stewart speak at a women's conference, and she came off as the most pretentious, full-of-herself person, so much so that people were actually leaving while she was speaking; I'm really very content being more like myself than Martha). Anywho . . . I was happy with the way they turned out, although what I thought was double-sided tape was actually removable double-sided tape, so there were some quick bandages made to our little robots before sending them off to school this morning. I also need to send a web-wide "thank you" to my hubby who was nice enough to help me finish these up last night, without complaining once :-). My son was excited to show his handiwork off at school this morning, so it was all worth it.

I do have to add a little dose of reality to interject into what would have otherwise been a perfect SAHM moment . . . during the assembly process, my son enjoyed one of the candy bar feet. He asked repeatedly whether he could have another piece of chocolate, and I reminded him that Mommy had very carefully purchased just enough chocolate (ensuring there would be no "encouragement" for Mommy's big behind too expand) and, anyway, it was almost dinner time. I stepped away from the crafting area to make a quick phone call and noted half-way through the conversation how patient my son (who normally would be repeatedly saying "Mama" or jumping up and down in order to get my attention refocused on him), was being at the craft table. "He's just so into making the valentines. Score one for Mom for choosing a successful, attention-holding project! What a precious angel my womb brought forth into the world." (You know where this is going already, don't you?) As I was hanging up the phone, I noticed the angel very responsibly throwing a large handful of trash into the garbage, and I once again awed at the perfection of the moment. I was about to praise him for his behavior when a chocolate-covered smile looked up at me from the trash-can, as if to say, "Why ever would you be looking at me that way, Mama?" I began to count was was indeed trash - empty candy bar wrappers - in the can only to discover he had eaten TEN. With stomach now full, the little angel chose to skip his dinner and drift off into a chocolate-induced coma guaranteed to produce sweet dreams. I know you're worried. There were no robot amputees . . . and, now that I think about it, I guess it still was a perfect SAHM moment, even though I'm sure Martha would not have approved . . .

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Day Two Post Traumatic Event

Well, yesterday (which was the second "traumatic" day of sending my oldest to school) was probably the most productive I've had in a long time. Yay ME! :-) After getting up I fed kitties, cooked breakfast for the biggest "boys," made school lunch for SP, fixed breakfast for the baby, ate my own (now cold) breakfast, cleaned litter boxes, cleaned kitty water fountain, did three loads of laundry (yeah, I even put it away instead of letting it become a long-term "decoration" in my living room), worked out, showered, made up beds and straightened up, made some baby food to freeze . . . oh, and cooked this for supper (please forgive the "blahness" of the white plate): Italian roasted pork tenderloin; carrots roasted with orange juice, honey and rosemary; Parmesan mashed potatoes; and "Roman" style broccoli. The broccoli was, oddly enough, my favorite. We're participating in a local produce co-op which is providing lots of winter veggies, and I'm trying to find something a little different to do with all the broccoli. This method of cooking was to put a few tablespoons of olive oil in a medium-high skillet, add some spring onions (another co-op veggie) and garlic to cook for about 30 seconds, then throw in the broccoli and about a 1/2 cup of water; cover and steam until broccoli is just getting tender. Uncover the pan, then cook, tossing frequently, until the water has evaporated. This should yield some browning on the broccoli. Drizzle with some more EVOO and a teeny bit of lemon juice. YUMMY! It was actually the thing I was picking at after the meal (although I admit to having a small spoon full of the cold mashed potatoes - BAD Mikki). All in all it was a good day . . . I was even in bed by 10:30 (after getting my "House" fix with my hubby)! I can hear the "Wonder Woman" theme in my head now . . .

Monday, February 8, 2010

"Every new beginning . . .

comes from some other beginning's end." While the song I have in my head now is in no way profound, those words are speaking to my heart. My oldest son, barely knocking on the door of 4-years old, started school today. While he's been in school before, I've had the privilege of being home with him for almost a year, and I'm missing him. His starting school is good for so many reasons - he's so bright and energetic and needs the interaction and stimulation he'll only get in school; this Mama has been in desperate need of some "me" time for awhile, and I'm grateful I'll get some now; the little baby at home is happy to have a little uninterrupted time with me; and I know my husband will thrill at the less exhausted, happier wife who'll greet him at the door every evening . . . but, as my son left this morning, eagerly clutching his lunchbox and running to the car in anticipation of what the day had in store for him, all I could see was how big that lunchbox looked in his little hands. I held onto that image for a moment, making sure it was permanently imprinted on my mind, since I know it will be the one I remember when he starts to kindergarten in another year, the day he throws his backpack on to head to his first day of high school, and when, someday, the lunchbox has been replaced with a suitcase as he leaves to start life all on his own. I know those days are far in the future, and I know there will be more happy memories than I can count in the meantime, but today I'm feeling the ancient parental struggle of watching your child slip a little further away from the safety of your arms while you desperately reach out to hold onto him just a little while longer. I started this post with a music lyric, and I'll end it with another . . . my prayer for my little big man who's just a little closer today to fulfilling all the wonderful things God has in store for him . . . "It's not living if you don't reach for the sky. I'll have tears as you take off, but I'll cheer as you fly. I pray that God will fill your heart with dreams, and that faith gives you the courage to dare to do great things. I'm here for you whatever this life brings, so let my love give you roots and help you find your wings." Go get 'em, baby!

Friday, February 5, 2010

When did I get too old for eye shadow with glitter?

I'm standing in the bathroom trying to get ready for an appointment, playing peek-a-boo with my 8-month old who's on the bed in my bedroom. (These little moments where I stick my head out around the door opening so he can see me are meant solely to keep him from crying, but please don't tell him that). I blindly grab something out of my make-up drawer, hoping it has something I can line my eyes with, and I look down to see a semi-recent Sephora purchase with a sparkly pink and grey eye shadow. My instant reaction is giddiness, "Oooooooh . . . sparkly;" a split-second later, I'm hearing "Greensleeves" playing in my head. After all, I'm on my way to meet my oldest son's new teacher who would wonder what glittery art project I was doing earlier, not be asking me where I got the cute eyeshadow. When DID I get too old to wear this stuff? Oooh, and strawberry-flavored lip gloss . . . I guess having two children and being eh, hem, 30-something should have clued me in, but I wish someone would have told me when I transitioned out of the time in my life where it was okay to have pony tails, skirts above my knees, and, sigh . . . make-up that was more about making you feel girly and less about covering up the stuff you want to hide. "I don't remember growing older . . . "

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Biscotti Part III

We've been in a "biscotti" mood around the house lately, so this is the third type I've made. I'm still playing with the butter/egg ratio I like best, but I thought these turned out tasty. They're called Butter Pecan, but I think they're more Butterscotch Pecan . . . not that there's anything wrong with that! I didn't have many butterscotch morsels left, so for the "drizzle" I ended up doing mostly white chocolate chips with a couple of tablespoons of the butterscotch ones, and I really dig the subtle butterscotch flavor. These are good even without a cup coffee (even though I'm off now to get myself a cup since this is day two of solid, rainy, cold, yuck weather). Oh, by the way, due to some circumstances (children) beyond my control, I wasn't able to monitor the cooking times as well as I'd have liked, so some of the biscotti broke apart. The good news? Biscotti crumbles make fabulous topping for ice cream. :-)