Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Don't Need No Stinkin' Badges

... Except that maybe I do...

After seeing a post from the Rock'n'Roll Gourmet in which she received a Girl Scout Merit Badge from a friend as a gift, now I DESPERATELY want to create and distribute 'merit' badges. Who's with me?

I have always luuuuuuuuuved uniforms. As a 'joiner', I am almost unable to resist the siren call of belonging that a uniform symbolizes. I adored being a Brownie. Not just because my Mama was a troop leader (and I luuuv my Mama), but because there was a uniform (!) and the potential to add pseudo-military insignia in the form of patches, pins and (*squeeeeeeee*) merit badges. I was in heaven.

I would like the opportunity to recreate that kind of third grade joy, and I would be happy to share it with you. Let's see... I think my first badge shall be the 'Three Olive' badge for making it through the kind of day that can only be survived by finishing it off with vodka... and my second badge will be the 'Bottle-icious' badge for knowing the names of at least 3 of this season's O.P.I. colors (because in addition to uniforms, I happen to adore O.P.I.)... ohhhhh, this is gonna be great!


Let me know when you've earned one - I'll make it happen as soon as you tell me the story... see, in addition to loving uniforms and O.P.I., I luuuuv stories!

Another Mama Moment

Today's recipe: Dracula's Revenge (Baked Penne with Sausage and Garlic)

Today is a bittersweet mothering day. Both Lily Ruth and I are congested to the gills. She has not wanted to do ANYTHING that doesn't involve me. I have just wanted to crawl under a rock (by myself) and hang out there until my head clears.

We've settled for cranky nursing


And restless napping


I'm venting, not complaining. How could I resent someone who loves me so intensely that all she wants when she feels crummy is me? I can't. I don't. I just REALLY wish that I had a staff so that somebody else could go start dinner while my baby snores green bubbles and reaches for me...

Oh, and it's going to be a GREAT dinner :-) One of my favorite recipes of all time! Dracula's Revenge came into my life from Cooking Light. I would swear that my mom has been making this since I lived at home, but Cooking Light swears that it appeared in October of 2000... potato, po-tah-to... it's still great. Tonight, I will be halving the pasta and the sauce, but keeping the garlic and sausage at their original levels... it's just that I don't have 6 cups of milk, and I'm NOT leaving the house for more (also, I don't actually need 10 servings - 5 will be more than enough ;-) ) Oh, and all of the reviews suggest upping the flour to 1/2 cup in order to make the sauce thicker/richer. Since I always thought that it should be thicker, I am thrilled to make the adjustment.

Dracula's Revenge (Baked Penne with Sausage and Garlic)
Yield:  10 servings

2 whole garlic heads
1 pound sweet turkey Italian sausage
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 tablespoons butter or stick margarine
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups 1% low-fat milk
1 cup (4 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup (about 2 1/2 ounces) shredded Gruyère or Swiss cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
8 cups hot cooked penne (about 1 pound uncooked tube-shaped pasta) or rigatoni
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.
Remove white papery skin from garlic heads (do not peel or separate the cloves). Wrap each head separately in foil. Bake at 350° for 1 hour; cool 10 minutes. Separate cloves; squeeze to extract garlic pulp. Discard skins. Set garlic aside.
Increase oven temperature to 400°.
Remove casings from sausage. Cook sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon. Place sausage in a large bowl; stir in sage and rosemary.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Add the flour to melted butter, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add the milk; cook until slightly thick, stirring constantly with a whisk (about 10 minutes). Stir in roasted garlic, cheeses, salt, and pepper. Remove mixture from heat. Add 5 1/2 cups cheese sauce and cooked pasta to sausage, stirring to coat. Spoon pasta mixture in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with remaining sauce. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated

CALORIES 434 (30% from fat); FAT 14.4g (sat 7.2g,mono 4.5g,poly 2g); IRON 3mg; CHOLESTEROL 57mg; CALCIUM 425mg; CARBOHYDRATE 48.7g; SODIUM 700mg; PROTEIN 26.3g; FIBER 1.4g 

Cooking Light, OCTOBER 2000

Sunday, December 26, 2010

WOW, Ya'll!

What a GREAT day!!! I hoped for a good day. I prepared for an average to fair day. I got an off the charts good day.

Before we went to bed last night, we staged Christmas under the tree. We included all of the gifts that Lily Ruth received - including the ones that she opened early - wait before you judge :-)



I woke up and threw Baby Jesus' Birthday Cake (a sour cream, almond & cranberry coffee cake that was a tradition in my house growing up) into the oven. Then I ran around like a headless chicken in an attempt to straighten the house. I even snapped at my husband when he tried to start Christmas before I was ready. Thank goodness he has the holiday spirit, so he not only forgave me, but he jumped in and did the dishes! When the house was presentable, we opened presents. Lily Ruth opened her big gift from Tutu and Pops first. It was a stroller for CeeCee. She did not voluntarily lose touch with the stroller for the rest of the day.


She even opened the rest of her gifts while holding it with one hand.


Luckily, we were prepared for the possibility of overload, so she has been opening one gift every night since they started showing up. That way, she has a whole day to play with new things before the next big thing comes around. As my friend Titti says, she's still in the 'I SAW THE DISHWASHER TODAY' phase of life - so everything is exciting. By allowing her to spread her gifts out, we hoped to give her days of joy over multiple toys instead of excitement about one thing followed by apathy for the bulk of the gifts. Only time will tell if we made the right choice... her family and friends were so generous!

After presents came breakfast. My grandparents joined us for coffee cake bacon and fruit salad.


When we had eaten ourselves silly and the Great Ones took their leave, we settled in for some lounging... and decided that lounging was for the birds, so we headed out to drop off a gift and procure more coffee. Then we came back in time to walk CeeCee up and down the street then sniff the shrubs.


This was followed by naps and lunch - and here's where it gets good. Not only did Lily Ruth say 'dinosaur', but she blew bubbles all on her own (:-O) AND 'read' to us AND talked about flying insects ('FLY'), AND ate an insane amount of food, AND pushed CeeCee around in the stroller like a crazy person... WHEW!

Before we knew it, it was time for dinner. Daddy grilled yummy steaks while Mama made a rice & orzo mix with Greek seasoning and sauteed some fresh spinach. Lily Ruth broke records for 'Amount of Food Ingested by an 18 Month Old',


... disclaimer - she didn't eat all of that (just all of the pears, most of the rice and 1/3 of the steak)... and her parents weren't far behind...


THEN we all got dressed for the first time today (wait, now it's YESTERDAY!?), and we went to see some friends. While there, Lily Ruth watercolored for the first time, and learned how to put coins into a piggy bank.

Holy Cow! If that kid learns how to do any more new stuff in one day, her tiny head is going to explode! But wait! There's more... upon returning home (thanks to Mama June), Lily Ruth ALSO learned that 1) sometimes you have to hit things HARD in order to get what you want and 2) sometimes enough is enough, and you just need to go to bed...


All in all, BEST CHRISTMAS DAY EVER... so far...

Love to you and yours! xoxo

Saturday, December 25, 2010

It's a Christmas MIRACLE!

Ya'll, Lily Ruth can say 'DINOSAUR'!!!!! It's waaaaaaaay too cute. In fact, it may be illegal - THAT'S HOW CUTE IT IS!!! Don't believe me? Fine. I'll show you:

video

Friday, December 24, 2010

Festive?

I think I've already mentioned that we are attempting to establish new holiday traditions around here. Well, as it turns out, this is harder than I had anticipated. I had a vague notion of the three of us in coordinating holiday-theme pajamas in front of the fire, gazing misty-eyed at the tree while the story of our lord and savior's birth plays over the top in a movie monologue sort of way.

That kind of thing doesn't actually happen. Christmas spirit doesn't just show up. Christmas requires an act of will. You have to decide to be festive, then work to make that happen. That is why it is now Christmas Eve morning, and we have no family plan for Christmas.

So far, we've decided to go to Sea World on Sunday to see the holiday shows. That is our plan in it's entirety. Oh, and there will be food... wait, maybe I have more of a plan than I thought...

Christmas Eve - wander around looking at lights on the river walk. Dinner at my uncle's house (tamales and chili!)

Christmas Day - Baby Jesus' birthday party (cranberry coffee cake and BACON!), presents and lounging. Lunch (Daddy's choice = corn dogs) then napping. Delicious dinner shall include steaks (possibly in a java mango marinade - thanks, Kittyn!), rice with orzo and seasonings, a beautiful green vegetable of some sort and... whatever else I can think of. Then we're off for a post-prandial visit with our friends two blocks over.

Sunday - Sea World fantastic-ness. Hilarious sea lion capers. A Sesame Street holiday show. Shamu leaping through red and green glitter while the Trans-Siberian Orchestra performs live from a barge in the middle of the tank... or whatever. It's gonna rock.

Now that I've laid it all out, that's a GREAT holiday plan!!! YAAAAAYYYYYYYYY! We just need to get moving. I think we're off to a good start:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

wait, WHAT?!

Daddy Don & I were watching SNL and relaxing (with wine) after a GREAT night with family. I saw some random fast food chain commercial and (randomly) commented that I would LOVE some fried cheese right now. Don replied 'it's like a search party from your toe'. Ummmmmm 'WHAT?!' I guess that he's more asleep than I thought. I asked him to repeat then explain himself. He repeated 'search party... from your TOE...' then he got defensive... then he started snoring. Good times :-P


My bed is currently a LOT like this, except that it's night..., and 16 months after this pic was taken... and both Lily Ruth and her daddy are snoring LOUDLY due to weather conditions...

*Edit* Ummmmmmm, TMWU (Too Much Wine Update) - Ya'll, I heard a cat yelling... so I ran to the back door make sure that it wasn't Bing... in only a tank top and my undies... AND MY IN-LAWS ARE IN THE GUEST ROOM!... where is my damn filter?... Oooooh, are those ginger snaps? Yes, I GOT COOKIES after I realized my situation and BEFORE I went back to my room... and yet Bing really WAS outside yelling to be let in because it is bitterly cold outside... so my instincts are good... ish...

Friday, December 17, 2010

2 Broken Faucets, 1 Spewing Potty...

'Tis the season... or rather, when it rains, it pours. Today is the day that my in-laws arrive. Tomorrow is my family Christmas celebration. My master bath potty broke a hose and the guest bath tub is inoperable. *le sigh*

Granted, the tub broke last month, but it happened when Daddy Don was having his 'procedure', so we shut it off and ignored it... and the potty crapped out (tee-hee) Wednesday... and we waited until TODAY to fix either them... and my kitchen is a disaster area... and the guest room looks like a tornado hit it... and the dining room table is covered in felt, templates, embroidery floss and decorating detritus...

OH, and I haven't started the soup, and I can't run the dishwasher or washing machine since the water is shut off while the tub is disassembled.

This is all my fault. I should have hired someone who is much more motived than myself to make this all happen in time. :-P

Gotta run. Need to hit the plumbing supply store then pick up the baby, then start dinner, then finish straightening, then... *dramatic collapse onto a couch*

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday Madness 2010

Well, here we are again, folks. The Holiday Season. I do not function well around the holidays. I point to the following things as potential reasons why:

1. I used to work in the hospitality industry. I've spent 98% of the Thanksgivings and Christmas Eves/Days of my adult life at work in either a restaurant or a spa. While there is something to be said for 'being there' for strangers on a holiday, there is also a lot to be said for being with your own family. The fact is that if you work in customer service, you do not have a choice. You work.

2. We married young, and my husband's family lives in another city. That means that since we were still considered the kids,  if we did (by some miracle) get a holiday off, we were expected to travel to see them instead of beginning our own family traditions. This was fine while we were still young married folk (and I love to see them), but we aren't the kids anymore. In fact, we have our own kiddo now, and she deserves her own traditions.

3. I suffered severe emotional trauma around the holidays two years in a row. For the last one, I was pregnant. While there is nothing bad going on these days, I'm still mentally girded for battle. Apparently my brain refuses to be caught off guard again...

Well, reasons for me to act like a lunatic aside, we began to start our own holiday traditions last year and we've continued that trend this year. I hope to have a groove that suits us started by next year. Mostly, this means that we're going to stay in our own home and invite others to share in our joy... on our terms :-P We're just going to hole up with each other, good food and a reasonable amount of alcohol.

I've also been busy crafting to ward off any lurking holiday funk. I made a bag for Lily Ruth to carry CeeCee and all doll associated items.



It's basically the same as her felt bags, but I used fabric on the outside, turned the seams inward and added a flap. I should have measured better as it's too big for Lily Ruth. I thought that I was being super-duper careful, but I second-guessed my original measurements and added inches where they were not needed :-/ She still uses it to carry CeeCee, Elmo, Ernie, Grover and Abby all at the same time soooo... mission accomplished!

I started a set of holiday felt toys/ornaments for Lily Ruth so that she has Christmas stuff of her own to play with... since she's not allowed to play with 99% of the ornaments on the tree... and I don't want to feel like the grinch who won't let the baby touch any of the cool stuff. I'm not done with them yet, but here are the templates for the first 15. I hope to have 24 by next year to use as an Advent calendar.


candy cane, Christmas light, stocking, snowman, wreath & holly

angel, jingle bell, santa hat & various trim

present, snowflake, ornament, tree top star, gingerbread man, tree, gold star

I finally ordered all of the prints for the photo project that I've been contemplating for over a year. They arrived yesterday, so I should have them ready to give as gifts!!! I can't tell you about them yet. It would ruin the surprise. I'll post pics of the toy/ornaments and the photo projects when they're done :-)

Oh, and I found Lily Ruth's yearly ornament! Last year's was a rubber duckie in a Santa hat (because of her love of baths). Today I found a coffee cup that looks like a to-go cup... because she adores coffee -


That's my angel with her BFF Henry. She's drinking actual (cooled) coffee while Henry pushes her along.

Ahhhhhhhh the Holidays. Thank you Lord for the many blessings in my life. Please help me to remember how truly loved and lucky I am when I start acting like an ungrateful jerk. Amen.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The New Kid

We have a new family member. She's small... and pink... with blue eyes... pretty quiet...

I haven't lost my mind. There are no new small animals. I am not even vaguely pregnant.

Lily Ruth has a baby doll, and she is in love. I had purposely put off purchasing a doll for Lily because she never seemed all that attached to any of her plush toys, so I kind of figured that she didn't care. I also wanted to see how much of 'doll love' is nature and how much is nurture. Oh, AND my Mama wanted to get her a doll for Christmas... so we waited. Then Lily's friend Henry got a baby sister. From her very first sighting of Lara, she was hooked. She asks to go to their house almost every day. She demands to 'hold' the baby once she is in the door. She sits on my lap with Lara in our laps and softly talks to her.


When the ladies at Parent's Day Out told me that she started asking to keep a doll with her when she naps, that was it. We went out and got a doll that day.

The doll's name is CeeCee (Lucy), and she seems to have become surgically attached to Lily Ruth. I'm serious here, people. Lily Ruth awoke at 3 am recently and instead of demanding 'Urse' (nurse), she shrieked 'BABY!!!!' until I was able to untangle CeeCee from the sheet and hand her over.

CeeCee came into our lives a few weeks ago, and things have changed around here. My never still, never quiet daughter has now developed an affinity for sitting quietly and still in her playhouse and doing things like 'giving the baby water':


and 'shhh-ing the baby to sleep'


Another example of how fierce she is about CeeCee - Lily Ruth recently found herself juggling several tasks (holding the 'baby', drinking from her cup and picking up another toy) and became very frustrated. I decided to step in and offer assistance. 'May I hold Baby CeeCee for you while you pick that up?' I enquired. 'NO!' came the response. Then she let out a HUGE sigh, shifted her load and gave me the 'this is my responsibility' look. I almost keeled over.

Oh, that reminds me - I forgot to tell you about Lily Ruth's new playhouse! It came to us courtesy of Grandpa. He loves Lily Ruth VERY much. He also truly understands the importance of having a space of your very own.

He delivered a giant brown box to our house with 2 very separate things written on the sides. The first is a message from Grandpa:


The second is a mystery communication from the construction site that the box came from:


Hilariously unexplainable, no? Several folks have suggested that I add 'and a partridge in a pear tree' at the end.

At any rate, Lily Ruth ADORES her playhouse. I decorated the outside during her nap the first day that it lived with us.


Then I stripped Lily Ruth down to her diaper and we colored the inside with Mama's special markers - the ones that Lily Ruth is NOT allowed to touch usually. It was awesome... and when I say awesome, I am referring to the amount of marker that adorned Lily Ruth's body :-P Since then, we have added 'furniture' (a Boppy pillow, blankets, a piece of her foam play scape and her aquarium crib soother) and LOTS of foam stickers of sea creatures ('ISH!') and Christmas ornaments ('shiny').


The box is wonderful. It provides my baby girl with a retreat in the middle of our chaos. She can crawl in with her doll and her Sesame Street plush friends and pretend like she's queen of the universe... yet she can keep Mama in sight. I will be just as crushed as Lily Ruth when it finally disintegrates. Thank goodness we know where to get more!

I've been crafting like crazy in order to liberate my creativity and retain my sanity during the wild and wooly holiday season. Unfortunately, since that takes up lots of time, I don't have time to tell you about it right now :-) I kind of look like this these days...


a bit tired, but happy to be here... I will make time to tell you eventually, though... I also need to show you our Christmas tree... oi. Thinking about all of the things I want to document is wearing me out. I'm going to go rest up. TTFN.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hilariously Bizarre

Ya'll, I just witnessed one of the most bizarre self-soothing rituals EVER. I had never seen her do this before, but apparently Lily Ruth has developed a bit of a tic.

Let me set the scene: We were ensconced in the glider in the nursery. I was murmuring soothing things about how it really was time for her nap. Lily Ruth was shrieking and pointing at the door. I reiterated that it was nap time, and we would not be leaving the nursery.

She kept yelling, but added in the tic. As she yelled, her right hand made a constant round trip from twirling her hair to her open mouth. As her fist passed her mouth, she would very briefly stop screaming to LICK THE BACK OF HER FINGERS (!!!!!) then it would cycle back to her hair where she would quickly twirl her sideburns - thus rubbing the spit into her hair.

It was a little like this - 'Ahhhh-haa-haa *lick*, Ahhhh-haa-haa *lick*, Ahhhh-haa-haa *lick*, Ahhhh-haa-haa *lick*.

I was DYING, folks. I had my lips pressed tightly together, and I was shaking with laughter.

I had no idea that she did this, but frankly it explains a lot. For example, last night I put her in the car with pristine pigtails. She was ticked about the carseat, and did a bit of yelling. When we stopped the car, one of her pigtails was stiff and sticky - like it had been wet. I had no idea how that had happened. Now I do.

How did this come about? How long has she been doing this? How soon can I see it again?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Really?

Here is the scene: My bed. Eleven o'clock - P.M. (!!!). The following things are currently in/directly next to my bed:

1. A congested, SNORING husband.
2. A daughter with what can best be described as 'Restless, Thrashing Body Syndrome'.
3. A 14-year-old cat whose grass-roots campaign to Sleep ON Rachel's Legs seems to be gaining ground.
4. An 85 pound German Shepherd who is nervous about the wind and is therefore pacing the hardwood floors.
5. A constant, intense pain in my right arm that threatens my mental stability.

- I was going to draw a diagram for you, but I don't have the software... so maybe I'll do it later and scan it it... don't hold your breath.

It's a veritable symphony of Mama insomnia:

zzzzzzZZZZZZ. zzzzzzZZZZZZ. zzzzzzZZZZZZ. zzzzzzZZZZZZ.
writhe, kick, WHACK, *lip smack*. writhe, kick, WHACK, *lip smack*.
puuuuuuRRRRRRR, circle, nudge, knead, *sigh*.
Click click click click click click click. Click click click click click click click.
(ouch......... ouch........ ouch......)

I've moved to the living room. The dog followed me. She is cutting off the circulation to my feet in her efforts to be close to me... yet I cannot hear the snoring... and nobody has whacked me in several minutes... and there are no cats pinning me down... *le sigh*... I think this is an improvement :-/

** EDIT: I returned to my bed (after an hour). I was lured in by the siren call of a shrieking Lily. We settled in. She requested nursing ('urse?'). She finished nursing, flung herself off of me and onto my pillow. Not two minutes later, she whacked me in the eye so hard that I saw stars. Not celebrities, people - because honestly, who would mind a quick glimpse of Tae Diggs any time of day or night? - but hot gold flashes of pain popping behind my (optimistically) closed eyelids. So I moved her. So she scooted perpendicular to me. In short order I had a tiny foot across the bridge of my nose. It inched over to my eye socket. Then down over my face. Then it slid to rest in the cup of my nursing bra.

I can hear you now - 'Ya'll need to get that baby out of your bed'. You're right. We do. It's just that it took an excruciatingly loud and long process to get her into her bed for the first half of the night. Neither one of us is quite ready for the protracted battle that it will take to evict her completely... it's a good thing that she's so dang cute...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Soapbox Issue - Kid Food

Just in case I haven't mentioned it before now, I have a kid. I toddler. An eating machine. She loves to eat. The phrase she utters the most (aside from 'ICE, ICE, ICE' for ice cream/yogurt/popsicle) is 'EAT, EAT, EAT!'. For the most part, I love feeding her.




 It is big fun to give her new things to try. I love to ask her what she wants to eat and let her peruse the selection in the refrigerator. It cracks me up to watch her share snacks and drinks with her friends... well, it's more like warfare than sharing - they tend to have an 'every man for himself' strategy at this age. She'll 'share', but to her, that means that she doesn't stop her friends from eating her snacks. She DOES however cram the snacks into her own mouth as fast as she can in order to ensure that she receives her fair share.

Of course, it's not all sunshine and lollipops. Lily Ruth is forming her own opinions about when and what she eats. A lot of the things that she used to eat without complaint are now on the *pursed lips, adamant head shake no* list.

As we discover the world of eating with a toddler, I have stumbled upon a few truths:

1. I thought we ate in a fairly healthy manner. Not true. Home cooked does NOT equal healthy. Nor does non-processed equal healthy. Home cooked and non-processed are good. Adding healthy into the mix would be even better.

2. Reading the labels to things that you used to buy on a regular basis will gross you out and/or piss you off. Seriously. Stuff that I used to love is now on my shit list. Nitrates, nitrites, HFCS, needless preservatives, coloring agents and 'flavoring' agents in spades. Ugh.

3. Almost 100% of 'food' marketed toward children is full of NASTINESS. Brands like Gerber who claim to only have our children's health in mind are trying to pump kids full of sodium, fillers, dyes and preservatives. It is incredibly frustrating to look for fun, good things to interest a toddler in eating only to find things that I wouldn't feed to my worst enemy packaged as 'for kids'.

I have also developed a theory. I cannot be the first person to have thought of this. In fact, I am sure that other mothers have thought something like this, but nobody has said it to me, so I'm gonna pretend that I am the FIRST EVER. Here it is - the bland, pureed, chock full of nastiness formula, jarred baby foods, infant cereals and 'snacks' steer children straight into the arms of the food manufacturers by preparing their palates for the highly processed crap that they want you to buy. Maybe kids 'don't like' vegetables because they never had anything that resembled the tastes and textures of actual food as babies. Infants have ridiculously sensitive noses. Their mouths are blank canvases. If you give them soft, tasteless and full of chemicals, that's all they'll know. If we give them actual flavors and (modified at first) textures, maybe they'll stand a better chance of making the leap to real food without protest.

I am not saying that convenience foods don't have a place in our lives. Lily Ruth eats packaged snacks. I have a door shelf full of fruit and vegetable puree pouches in my refrigerator. I just read the label of every item that I buy. Her snacks are HFCS free, baked and as 'healthy' as I can make them. The purees I give her are 100% fruit and/or vegetables, and are free of preservatives and additives. When we leave the house, I make the time to throw things like fizzy water, cubed cheese, tangerines and shredded chicken into our bag so that we can eat while we're out without resorting to Cheetos (mmmmmmmm, Cheetos), sodas or (GACK!) Lunchables. This allows me to feel like a good mother AND slightly superior to every one else... until we get to the park and I'm the only one in Old Navy instead of Kathleen Sommers... then I'm back to just being an exhausted mom (in sloppy, comfortable clothes) doing the best that I can... who is being ignored by the pack of well-dressed Velociraptors jerks moms over by the big kid swings... I really should stop hanging out in the park near that expensive pre-school...

In closing, I'm trying. I want my daughter to understand what it is to eat well. I want her to know that it is a blessing and a privilege to eat the way that we do. I want the way that we eat to enhance her health. I want our family meals to delight her senses. I want for her to think that fast food is a once-in-a-great-while indulgence, not a way of life.

Oh, and since I'm wishing, I want world peace, whiter teeth, to lose 30 pounds and a new car. Thank you in advance for your cooperation in this matter.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Happy Halloween!

I really enjoyed our weekend! It started on Friday with Lily Ruth's 'party' at Parent's Day Out. The kiddos wore costumes and parents brought treats and the caregivers made special lunches in the classrooms. Adorable... well, adorable except for what the program director refers to as 'The Annual Torturing of the Children' - also known as picture time:





I only got a few shots before all 3 mamas gave up and got into the picture. Now I just have to remember to ask for copies...

I made a new favorite recipe - Lollipop Cakes! They actually come together very easily, and the recipe multiplies out very easily and tastily. Since I am NOT a great baker, and I needed to make way more of these than the original recipe allows for, both of those things are important. Alright, I'm going to give you the original recipe, then the modified / multiplied version that I have now made twice :-)

The original recipe comes from the 'Bean Appetit' cookbook by Shannon Payette Seip and Kelly Parthen with Carisa Dixon that I acquired on our (AWESOME) trip to Madison Wisconsin. You can see more about them on their Bean Sprouts Cafe website.

Bear with me, This is actually 3 recipes - the Bean Appetit Flour Blend, the Sweet 'Meat' Filling (a.k.a. chocolate cake), and the directions for assembling the Lollipop Cakes.

Bean Appetit Flour Blend

3 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups wheat germ
1/2 cup flax meal

combine and store in an airtight container

Sweet 'Meat' Filling

1/4 cup Bean Appetit Flour Blend
1 tsp cocoa powder
2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp water
2 tsp milk
1 Tbsp chocolate chips

- preheat the oven to 350 degrees
- combine the flour blend, cocoa powder, brown sugar and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Then add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, water and milk and stir until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
- spray a mini muffin pan and pour in the cake batter. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean.

Lollipop Cakes

Serves 4

1 recipe Sweet 'Meat' Filling
3-4 Tbsp milk
4 lollipop sticks
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
sprinkles

- When your cake is cooled, mash it up into little pieces in a bowl. Add the milk until the cake becomes sticky.
- form 1-inch-diameter balls using the sticky cake. Carefully slide a lollipop stick into each ball. Place in the freezer for 20 minutes or until the cake hardens.
- dip each ball into the melted chocolate and decorate it with the sprinkles. Set the cake balls on parchment paper and let them cool for 10 minutes or until the chocolate hardens.

SOOOOOOOOOOOO, here is the expanded version. Remember, I've made it TWICE, so I'm fairly certain that it's not a fluke that it worked... but it might be... bake at your own risk :-P

Makes 24 - 26 Lollipop Cakes:

1 1/2 cup Bean Appetit Flour Blend
6 tsp cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
6 Tbsp olive oil
6 tsp balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup milk
1/3 (+ a little bit extra) cup chocolate chips (I used 60%+ dark chocolate morsels)

Modifications to the process:

- Mix the cake in the same order as before. use a full size muffin/cupcake tray (I filled a 12 portion tray). bake approx 25 minutes - start checking for done-ness at 20 minutes.
- Once the cake has cooled, mash and mix in milk in small amounts. you want sticky, but still manageable, not sloppy or runny. I used 9 Tbsp milk.
- Roll the cake mixture into balls, insert the lollipop sticks and freeze (40+ minutes worked best for me)
- I may be skewered by real bakers, but I melted the remainder of the bag of chocolate morsels in the microwave (in a pyrex dish) for 1 minute.
- While the chocolate begins it's melting, bring a small pan of water to boil on the stove (small enough that the dish will sit in it w/o becoming submerged). As soon as boiling begins, turn the heat off, and place the dish of chocolate into the pan. The residual heat from the water will keep the chocolate at the right consistency. If the chocolate becomes too hard, turn the heat on 'low' for a minute or two.
- Sprinkle each lollipop as soon as it has been dipped. If you wait too long, said sprinkles will not stick :-(
- By the way, I tried using 'white chocolate' on a few from the first batch - not fantastic...




So there you have it! Yummmmmmmmm. I know - I love you, too.

Monday, November 1, 2010

So You Think You Want a Baby...

I went through a cycle of Baby Fever recently. I thought I wanted another baby. As it turns out, I am nowhere near ready for another baby. I don't even like most kids who are not Lily Ruth... Oh well. Whilst in the grasp of Baby Fever, I couldn't think of much else beside babies, so I started this post. Since my opinion is paramount (this IS my blog, after all :-P)... and sometimes publishing your moments of folly is just as important as publishing your milestones and proud moments... I'm going to include this post after all.

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I asked a lot of questions of my family and friends before I decided that I was ready for a baby. I find that I am asked the same types of questions now that I am a mama. I think I am comfortable with my answers...

I was 'anti-baby' for a lot of years. I wasn't even happy for my friends who decided to have babies! I'm pretty sure that I 'ruined' more than one announcement from a good friend with something along the lines of 'OH, wow. Is this something you really want?!' Then one day, I wanted a baby... or I thought I might... so, 'How do you know if you want a baby?' This was a really tough issue for me. Was it just hormones or biological clock or did I really want a baby? For me, when I thought of having a baby as a positive thing more often than a negative thing, I realized that I was about to be ready for this. The more time that passed, the more positive I was, and then I was ready. Of course, as soon as I decided that I was ready, and we decided to start trying, then I became obsessed - but I think that's pretty typical :-)

The biggest worry for me before Lily Ruth arrived, was 'How do you know you're ready to handle a baby - I mean REALLY handle the day-to-day?' My answer - you just are. It's like any other aspect of life. You make your decision, and you follow through. You decide that you want a baby, then you move forward. The rest is just living. There are days when the baby is crying and you're exhausted and frustrated and freaked out and you may even be thinking 'there is no way I can do this!', but you do. You take a deep breath and you do it. There will be days when that's the best that you can do. There will also be days when that deep breath will lead to some of the most amazing moments in your life.

The thing that my child-less friends ask the most is 'Where does the patience come from?' Let me tell you, this is my biggest struggle every. single. day. I guess my answer is that it is a conscious choice. I am not magically patient because I gave birth. For example: a snapshot from a recent week: a scream-fest (possibly due to teething). On Monday, I had to load my baby in and out of a Mini Cooper (opening and closing the top each time or wrenching my back by loading her in from the driver's side - ugh!) every time we wanted to go somewhere because Daddy needed my car. Lily Ruth accidentally broke my cheap but sentimental Hawai'ian bracelet during a public display of will, and I was so hot that I was sure I was about to melt. I wanted to rant, scream, shake her, and maybe even march her out while holding her arm in an angry manner. But I did not. I squatted down, told her that I loved her, cleaned up my beads, and walked out cuddling my baby. My original reaction wouldn't have accomplished anything positive, and it would have modeled inappropriate behavior for my little sponge. Plus, I love her, why would I want to hurt her? It was a very focused choice to behave positively - and it was a hard one. Do I make the right choice every time? Uh, no, but I think that I'm able to so so more often than not... and more often than I used to. The patience comes because you decide to use it.

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So there you have it. Mama Rachel Explains it ALLLLLLL. That's right, I know everything. Ask me a question... no, not that one... pick another one... an easier one...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why I Don't Get Anything Done

Here was my list for today:

1. Drop Lily Ruth off at Parent's Day Out
2. Go to Central Market for the 'specialty items'
3. Go to regular HEB for the regular stuff
4. Finish my blog post on kid food
5. Make a few more Halloween felt toys
6. Dump the yucky stuff from the fridge and do the dishes

Here's what I've done:

1. Drop Lily Ruth off at Parent's Day Out
2. Go to Central Market for the 'specialty items'
3. Stare at my truly awe inspiring pile of felt and haphazardly sketch a few 'bats' that look more like butterflies
4. Google 'Halloween bat stencils' and gaze dispiritedly at the results
5. Scroll through Baby Center and post on a couple of threads
6. Talk on the phone for 45 minutes
7. Scrounge through the guest room looking for the manual for my broken phone
8. Find the manual then decide to rearrange the mountain of clutter in the guest room (BTW, mountain is not an exaggeration. If anything, it is too kind.)
9. Spend over an hour hauling paper bags of books into new positions and sadly pawing through numerous boxes of JUNK MAIL before deciding that it all needs to be truly sorted before throwing it out.
10. Sit on the couch sneezing from the dust stirred up by the rearrangement process and blog about NOT finishing my previous blog post while gazing glassy-eyed at Logo TV.

Here, have a gander at Lily Ruth telling me how silly she is. It's only 27 seconds long (because my crummy old phone only records for 27 seconds at a time), so you'll be in and out in no time:

video

That's the best I can manage for now. I have to go pretend like I'm gonna to clean the kitchen. In reality, I'm probably gonna hunt down some chocolate then take a bath and read a book.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Another 'Tidbits' Post

It feels like all of my posts have been in Weekly Wrap-Up format lately. I haven't had any great stories to tell, but there are still things that I want to document. I've also noticed that yet another week has gone by without regular posts. I just haven't had the energy. I feel more like myself today, so maybe things are on an up-swing :-)

In Lily Ruth news, she now says 'baf' for bath and 'ICE, ICE, ICE' in reference to anything frozen. She references frozen foods MANY times each day. She loves all forms of frozen treats. I've taken to freezing her organic baby-sized yogurts so that she'll eat them more often. So far, she's just as excited about that as ice cream or juice popsicles. She is also obsessed with carrying things in containers. She has the felt purses that I made for her and two Halloween buckets with handles. She fills them all up with various items, stacks the containers, and attempts to carry them all (at the same time) to a new location. Then she unloads them all, sorts through the items, reloads them and starts off for greener pastures.

In Halloween news, I've decided against making an elaborate costume. Lily's too young to remember this year, and it's really hard to make a 16-month-old wear something that she doesn't want to. I'll save my energy and effort for next year. I had already made yet another dress up skirt. Here it is - modeled by her giraffe (since she was at Mother's Day Out when I wanted to take pics):



It's 3 layers. Aqua trimmed in orange balls, black trimmed in candy corn ribbon and orange tulle trimmed with black ric-rac. Add the a cute onesie I found on sale at baby gap:


and that's what she's going to wear. Not a costume, but a festive outfit. She'll have darling pigtails (since she refuses to wear hats), and if it's cool enough, coordinating leg warmers (of course). We're debating the purchase of baby-sized Chuck Taylors to finish it off. My only reservation there is the rigid sole. Lily Ruth has only worn soft-soled shoes. Her balance isn't awesome, and her pediatrician agrees that she's better off barefoot or in soft shoes until she's sturdy... I would LOVE to see her tiny feet in shoes that match mine, though :-P

In crummy news, Frank is still missing. I don't think he's going to make it back. My heart is broken. Also, Bing is still not 100% better. This only fuels my suspicion that they got into something poisonous :-(

In family news, we drove to Houston so that Lily Ruth could meet her Great Aunt Sharon and Great Uncle John who were visiting from Hawai'i. Lily Ruth wore her Hawai'ian dress in honor of the occasion:


She also ate red frosting in honor of Uncle Brad's birthday:


and did some hot tubbing:


I love that picture. It looks a bit 'art-y', but in reality, Daddy was shooting blind since it was pitch black out there. He would just point the camera in her general direction and hope for the best. I deleted a lot of pictures of my knee and the top of her head. We had a good time with our family. Lily especially approves of Tutu and Pops' new dachshund puppy. Pele is Lily Ruth-sized and completely lovable. They got along like a house afire. Soooooooo cute!

That's enough for now. Maybe later I'll post about my new favorite recipe and Lily Ruth's kicking skills. That kid has some mad skills, yo.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Crummy Week

This has been quite a week, and it's not over yet.

It started on Sunday with me allowing Lily Ruth free access to my phone... which resulted in her KILLING the display with drool. I have now lost over a year's worth of new contact information, and may not be able to restore it. A friend suggested that this might be a way to cull some of the deadwood out of my life. I can send out a general call for phone numbers via e-mail and social networking. Anyone who doesn't respond might not want to / deserve to / need to be reached.

Monday found me rushing to the vet with Bing. He was bleeding... 'down there'. It was like a crime scene in  my kitchen when I noticed, yet he was completely oblivious. So far, all of his tests (blood and fecal) have been normal, and he's back home, but he doesn't seem to feel great. He also seems to have very irritated eyes. I HATE to have one of my babies is hurting, but I'm also feeling the pinch of the over $400 we just spent on him, so I am loathe to return to the vet so soon.

Monday was also the last time that I saw Frank. He has wandered off before, but never for this long. I am freaking out, you guys. Today it hit me that there is a very real chance that the boys got into something poisonous that made Bing sick and possibly killed Frank. We have combed the houses on all sides of us. I called all of the area vet clinics. I put an ad on Craig's List, and will probably make fliers tomorrow. I can't find my guy. It's killing me.

Tuesday was alright except for the stress leading into Don's procedure. None of us got any real sleep. Lily Ruth kept waking up angry, standing up in the center of our bed and howling. Then she would throw herself down and sob back to sleep.

Wednesday started bright and early. My mama came over to watch Lily Ruth (who slept in until after 10! **edit** Lily Ruth's Nanny begs to differ - apparently, Lily Ruth began waking up every half hour or so around 6:30. She would look around and moan 'Mama' then go back to sleep... or crawl down the bed to be as far from Nanny as possible... but she didn't get up until almost 10.) and Don and I headed for the hospital. We were taken back to the cardiac prep area immediately, but we were third in line, and had to wait until 10:15 before it was his turn. I felt so scared and panic-y before they started, but as soon as he was in the operating theatre with the doctor (who I think of as 'The Guy Who Knows All Of The Stuff), I felt very calm. At that point, it went from being a complete unknown to being a matter of time before we had some answers. Even if the news was bad, it would be a known quantity with a treatment plan. His procedure was short - only 45 minutes. The doctor found some plaque in his aorta, but not enough to require a stent. The blockage that he already had remained at the same level as last time. So, not great, but fairly good news :-/ We were home by 2 with scary post-procedural instructions about things like not lifting anything over 10 pounds and holding the incision if he has to sneeze.

Today was... fine... Lily Ruth was cranky pretty much all day. I'm a zombie, but (as usual) I can't switch off enough to sleep or even just rest. Don was home, but at odds since he couldn't DO anything. Keely is chewing all of her fur off. Bing is squinting and has his creepy cat 3rd eyelids showing... and Frank is still gone.

To top it all off, Lily Ruth has decided that she doesn't nurse in the daytime any more. My boobs beg to differ. Now I have to decide if I should pump to relieve the engorgement, or endure the pain and let my supply manage itself. Why couldn't she drop even one of her numerous night time feedings instead? We were down to 3 nursing sessions during the day. We still do 4 - 6 overnight. No lie. No real rest for Mama, either.

This is another example of a time when I wish that I could be selfish and just fall apart, but I can't. I have to hold it together and take care of my family. I think I can do that. Maybe. Ask me later...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

:-O

I mentioned in my last post that Daddy Don has to have a 'procedure'. It's true. He does. He's having a Cardiac Catheterization tomorrow morning. This is his second catheterization. The first one was done more as a baseline test, and was done several years ago. Daddy Don has a family history that involves serious heart trouble, so he sees an Intervention Cardiologist - a doctor who proactively meets with, examines and treats him instead of waiting until he has a cardiac incident.

This procedure is not a baseline. It is being performed because the doctor was not happy with Don's EKG and stress test results.

I have been a mess of anxiety since we found out about this last Friday. I hold it together pretty well on the surface (I think), but I have moments of pure panic (what will they find? what if the procedure goes badly? etc...). In an attempt to keep myself calm, I went to the Mayo Clinic website to read about Cardiac Catheterization. Um, now I am FREAKING OUT. I have too much detailed information in my head, and I have a VERY vivid imagination.


So now I'm blogging about my freak out and watching Elmo with Lily Ruth. Elmo is not helping. Lily Ruth is, though. There have been multiple times since her conception that the actuality of having a child either gestating in your body or in need of your constant care has kept me going. This is one of those times. It's impossible to go completely off the rails when somebody this awesome needs you. You keep it together even though you might rather crawl into a bottle of vodka... which would accomplish nothing...

Oi. Pray for me, people. I'm gonna need the Big Guy's ear for a bit.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Not really up to posting...

I feel like I have a lot to say, but no way to get it out of my teeming brain and onto the screen. I am a veritable whirlwind of thoughts, yet none of them are coherent enough to create a post. Here's what I'm brewing (these may never come to fruition... especially now since I may claim THIS as having 'written about it'...):

I am terrible at running into people I used to know. I freeze, then babble, then wander off. They probably think I'm (literally) crazy.

My daughter has started growling. That's right - growling. If she sees a picture of a big animal (tiger, dinosaur, bear), she growls. Adorable.

It is so awesome outside that I wish I could knock down all of my walls and replace them with mosquito netting.


My husband is awful at taking care of himself - case in point, he will be undergoing a minor yet terrifying 'procedure' ON HIS HEART this week.


My dreams are so vivid that I wake up convinced that I am psychic and have just had a vision. This ALWAYS turns out to be not true. I am not even a little bit psychic.

I need a new career. If you know of something that I would be good at that doesn't require working evenings, weekends and holidays... and wouldn't BORE ME TO DEATH (:-P), please let me know.

That is all for now. More later. Maybe.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Coooooler Weather!

Well, relatively speaking... It has actually been nice and cool when we wake up, but it STILL works it's way up to blisteringly hot by nap time.

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Lily Ruth and I are still swimming at Miss Diana's most days, but our days of salt water bliss are numbered. She has already had to heat her pool once due to rain and low ambient temperatures for a few days in a row. This signals the end of swim lesson season. There will be one more two-week cycle, then no more :-( Our own pool was delightfully algae-free for those same cool days, but is now flaring up in response to the warmer temps. We just can't seem to get ahead this year!

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Sweet Lily Ruth has been feeling giddily adventurous what with all this change, and has taken to running full-tilt at life. This has resulted in her first, second, and possibly third round of skinned knees. They aren't that bad, but she CANNOT seem to ignore them. Left in her carseat, she will pick at the tiny scabs unendingly. Thank goodness for baby legwarmers! My obsession is finally paying off. I can cover her knees with them which stops both the skinning and the picking.

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Ya'll, the cutest thing in the world has happened! Lily Ruth's hair is long enough for pigtails *squeeeee*


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The 'I can do it MYSELF' phase continues (big surprise).


This is how most of my walks go... except I don't usually have Daddy's help so I juggle stroller, dog, coffee and walking baby all by myself. This means that (once again) I am working on my patience. The weather makes me eager to get outside with my daughter, but I guess that I imagined it more on MY terms. I had visions of striding forcefully along and really feeling my body move again. I could see my thighs slimming down as my buns lifted and my strength returned. I saw me, but not us, because what actually happens is a bit different.

In actuality, our walk begins with me reigning in a dog who is trying to drag us down the street. Then we settle in a bit, and hit our stride. Then we make it to Starbucks, and the battle begins in earnest. Lily Ruth and I negotiate our entrance - does she want to walk or be carried? Does she want a juice or a yogurt? Does she want to help Mama stir? Does she want to sit in a chair or walk around? Now it's time to go - do you want to help Mama with the doggie, or sit in your stroller? Well, now you HAVE to sit in your stroller because we have to cross a busy street. I'm sorry that it makes you mad enough to kick, but I am REALLY tired of the mess created by flying juice/coffee/snacks.

Once we get to a less traveled street, my angel asks to get out of her stroller and walk. Well, not just walk but push the stroller, scold the dog, step on every crunchy leaf, pick up tiny rocks and interesting sticks, walk with one foot on the verge AND shake her head emphatically 'NO' any time I ask if I can pick her up or if she'd like to ride in the stroller again. It takes forever to get 5 feet. I try to remind myself that she is my job and we don't have anywhere to be but here. That doesn't help. I get bored, frustrated and irritated. Then I calm down, and we continue... at a snail's pace... and I get hot... and the dog starts to pull again... and I end up forcing a screaming baby into her stroller - apologizing to her as she flails and cries giant tears. Then we race home in tense silence broken only by tiny sobs or frantic protestations (if I try to sing or cajole a smile). *le sigh*

Does she have my number or what?!

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Ya'll know it's not all tantrums and misery, right? It's not. It's really, really not. It's just easier to whine than rejoice. Let's balance it out!

There's taking rides on Grandpa's  ('PA!') office chair:


There's nights out at the Botanical Gardens:


There's angelic light while visiting with friends:


Lots of good stuff... oh, did I tell you that I'm thinking of making a String Cheese costume for Lily Ruth?  I am. Thinking about it. We'll see...