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:

Friday, December 24, 2010


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.