Archive for January, 2010

Bittersweet milestones

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

p1020134Tessa has discovered how much she likes to sit in chairs that are her size.  Bottles were phased out awhile ago.  Most days she is too busy to cuddle at all.  And today, the high chair has officially been retired.  Each of these milestones is bittersweet for me because I know that Tessa is my last baby.  Steve and I sometimes talk in the dark of night about adopting again someday but that is mostly to comfort ourselves as we watch Tessa move away from being a baby and Sabrina start looking so much like a girl rather than a toddler.

I ordered a booster seat for Tessa after Christmas.  It is the same model as Sabrina’s – just a different color.  It has been almost 2 years since Sabrina switched over to the booster and I forgot the one design flaw of this model.  The food tray that snaps onto the big tray only snaps in the back meaning curious fingers eventually discover that they can pull the tray from the front and get it off pretty easily.  It took Sabrina 6 or 8 months to realize this and at that point we stopped using the food tray and just used the tray without a cover.  No big deal – the food tray is just convenient to throw in the dishwasher.

It took Tessa 3 minutes to discover this design flaw.  (Note the innocent look on her face.)

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This kid is going to be trouble.

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You down with OPR?

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Last week, before I got sick AGAIN, I was doing a fair amount of cooking and baking – largely due to my new kitchenaid mixer.  So instead of whining about my illness (fever that lasted all weekend but finally broke this morning, incredibly sore throat, headache, swollen glands – hush, it is my blog and I’ll whine if I want to…my husband quit listening around 4pm yesterday), I thought I would share a couple of the Other People’s Recipes that I tried out.

I linked up to the recipe for the pretzels in the comments of that post.

p1020110I’ve been trying to find the perfect Black Bean Soup recipe – one that starts with dried beans because I really like the finished product…all silky smooth in the back ground yet some texture from the beans still.  My most recent attempt was with this one from all recipes.  But of course I didn’t follow it precisely – who has 2/3 cup of dry sherry in the house?  So here is the recipe as I did it:

Black Bean Soup

  • 2 cups dry black beans
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 stalks celery, halved
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 packet Goya ham flavoring (it is with the mexican foods usually…like chicken bullion but ham flavored)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 2 or 3 dashes cayenne pepper or ground chipolte pepper
  • 1 ham hock (it is cheap…you find it with the parts no one really eats – I have no idea what part of the animal this is but it grossed me out while providing  a nice smoky flavor to the soup)
  • 1 or 2 T cream sherry

I soaked the beans overnight then drained them.  I chopped the onions fine.  I threw all of the ingredients in the pot except the cream sherry.  (I didn’t chop the celery to be part of the soup because I don’t like chunks of celery in this kind of soup. So I halved them and removed them with the bay leaves before pureeing.)  I cooked it for 6 1/2 hours on low on my stove – I’m sure the crock pot would serve the same purpose.  Add more water if it gets low during the cooking.  I fished out the bay leaves and celery and ham hock and then pureed it with my stick blender.  If it seems a bit thick, add some chicken broth while pureeing.  I threw in the sherry and let it cook for another 15 minutes and served with sour cream and shredded cheese.  It is missing something and the cream sherry is not the right flavor…I’m thinking about buying some dry sherry and seeing how it tastes or perhaps continuing to look around at other recipes because this soup just misses being spot on.  Worth trying though – low effort for a nice big pot of warm, filling soup.

p1020124The other recipe I tried last week was one someone linked to on Facebook during the holidays.  It was for the Best EVER Chocolate Chip Cookies.  That got my attention.  I’m not a baker but I’ve been known to make pretty darn good cookies with the help of Toll House.  With all of the butter and brown sugar, I figured these had to taste good.  And they did. I don’t know if they are the best I’ve ever eaten but they are the best I’ve ever baked.  (And I haven’t been able to eat any for 3 days because my throat hurts so bad – WAH!)  I made absolutely no changes so I won’t spell out the recipe – just click on the link.  I will say I got confused with the amount of chips because 2 cups = 12 ounce bag and the recipe called for 2 cups or 16oz (but 2 cups is 16 oz) so just use a bag and don’t hurt yourself pondering how a 12 oz bag is 2 cups but 2 cups = 16 oz.  The amount of brain power diverted to that conundrum might possibly have lowered my immune system thereby allowing this illness to overtake me.  So there you have it – the chocolate chip cookies are yummy but have been known to cause either strep throat or the swine flu depending on whether who you describe my symptoms to.  (And I still hear my 8th grade English teach telling me I should structure that sentence “to whom you describe my symptoms.” because of the whole not ending a sentence with a preposition but I hate sounding snooty just to be grammatically correct so I will continue to argue with Mr. Klink that informal situations allow ending a sentence with a preposition in this day and age.)

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If we get snowed in I can bake something

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

My lovely mother in law gave me a very generous gift card in my stocking this year.  Know what I did with it? I bought myself an appliance.  Isn’t it pretty?  (My Target only carries white so I didn’t have to struggle with deciding between the aqua, apple green, orange, yellow or cherry red because I’ve never been able to decide which I love more.)

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Yes, I am officially a dork.  I tried out the dough hook yesterday.  Wanna see what I made?

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They were supposed to taste like Aunt Annie’s.  They were good but they weren’t Aunt Annie’s.  With a little more salt and a lot more butter they probably would have been pretty close.

For almost a week, they’ve been talking about us getting snow today.  Tuesday they treated the roads in anticipation.  (Yeah, I have no idea why they did it 48 hours ahead of time.)  Yesterday, before flake had fallen, they closed almost every school in the area for today.  This morning, nothing.  It started snowing around 8:30 – now almost 2.5 hours later, this is what got the kids a snow day:

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That screaming you hear? That is my 10 year old self who had to put on my snow boots, gloves, scarf, and big old parka and trudge down the snow covered drive way to the bus stop walked to school up hill both ways in hip deep snow because we never got a snow day.

Christmas in a box (or 2)

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

p1020098When we travel north, our car is packed pretty full.  We obviously get rid of a few things during gift giving but it never seems to free up a lot of room.  Because everyone is so generous to our family, my inlaws normally end up shipping the majority of our loot home for us.  The 2 ginormous boxes arrived yesterday so it was like Christmas all over again for the girls.

I was taken aback by the size – I couldn’t lift one so I scooted it inside.  I didn’t remember it being so much – granted there was a lot of bubble wrap but still – wow.  We have 1 large rubbermaid container that is only for supervised play: games, puzzles, skill building items…basically anything with lots of pieces that will get strewn about the house if I don’t make sure we get them out 1 at a time and then put them away intact.  We weeded through our extensive book collection to get rid of those we adults hate to read – they are headed to Goodwill.  I am also going to do some toy editing during naps this week so that we have a more reasonable number of toys.

p1020100It is amazing how the girls instinctively know what toys are theirs – and immediately play with something that isn’t.  I snapped this photo first thing this morning – Tessa is wearing Sabrina’s crown and Sabrina is playing with Tessa’s Jack (sock monkey) in a box.  As I was unpacking the box, they immediately gravitated toward the loudest toys received: the keyboard and the lawn mower.  I think we have Aunt Iveta to thank for both of those…I’ll keep that in mind when shopping for the twins next time.  (I kid. Maybe.)

p1020102But we also have Aunt Iveta to thank for another of the most favorite gifts.  She turned the twins’ drawings (with the help of Snapfish) into placemats for the girls and coffee mugs for the grown ups.  Sabrina loves her placemat and talks about what is on it while she waits for her meal and during her meal and after her meal.  It was a very clever gift and everyone loved it.  (They used the kids drawings for their Christmas cards too – very cool.)  So you are almost forgiven for the loud toys.  Almost.

Hamloaf – it tastes like childhood

Monday, January 4th, 2010

I haven’t done a Mouthwatering Monday recipe in awhile.

I’ve mentioned hamloaf a couple of times around here and I always get responses like along the lines of “WTF? Gross!”  I love hamloaf.  It must be somewhat regional because few people seem to know what it is.  In Ohio, you can buy it ready to put in the oven but the butcher looked at me like I was crazy when I asked in Pittsburgh.  I haven’t even tried to find it in TN.  My momma didn’t cook a lot of meat when I was a kid but hamloaf was a treat.  In case anyone wants to try it, I thought I would share the recipe here.  And for the record, Steve thought it sounded foul but became a convert in 1 bite.

p1010973While I was home, I bought some hamloaf mix and brought it back to TN in a cooler.  My photos aren’t very pretty – they were an afterthought.  And before you get all “EWWWW” on me, think of it as meatloaf without the beef or ketchup.

Hamloaf

1.5 lbs of hamloaf mix (70% ground ham, 30% ground pork – you can ask your butcher to do this for you if you live in an area without hamloaf)

1 sleeve saltines, finely crushed (some folks prefer 1cup bread crumbs or ritz crackers or even oatmeal…like ordinary meatloaf it is open to interpretation)

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

2 eggs, beaten

Glaze:

1/3 cup brown sugar

3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 Tablespoons water

1 Tablespoon yellow mustard (can use dijion or other type on hand)

Mix the first 4 ingredients together by hand and form into a loaf in an 8×8 baking pan.

Mix glaze items together and pour over loaf.  Bake at 350 for approx 70  minutes (until internal temp is 165-170).

Tastes great with a green veggie and scalloped potatoes.  And the leftovers are YUM!

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Speaking of Christmas

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

p1010747I do have a photo or 2 to share from our trip north.  We left on the 22nd at 9pm so that the girls could sleep in the car.  The plan was for me to take a nap when Steve got home from work.  That didn’t work out so well because I am always forgetting that I can’t get anything done with 2 toddlers running around.  Sabrina isn’t too bad but Tessa just won’t stay out of anything.  It is impossible to accomplish anything when I am home alone because she is at an age that requires full time direct management.  But she is so cute that I forget until the next time I think I’m going to get something done while Steve is at work.

p1010744No nap, Steve and I both a little tense because we are tired and trying to get things to fit in the car, and an overnight drive – recipe for a good time, no?  We had to change drivers every 2 hours because we were both so tired (have I mentioned that I can’t sleep in the car?) but the girls did great.  They both stirred every time we stopped but went right back to sleep.  We were having breakfast at Eat N Park in Pittsburgh by 8:30am.   Let the festivities begin (after a 3 hour nap at my MIL’s house because we couldn’t check into our hotel yet…)!  Complete with gingerbread houses.

p1010780Christmas the First. The girls had matching outfits for Christmas although you wouldn’t know it if you didn’t look at multiple photos because I couldn’t get a single photo of them together.  Sabrina was way too busy adoring her older cousins and basking in the attention of aunts, uncles, and Grandma and Pap-pap.  Tessa, while not disliking or afraid of folks who aren’t designated bottle sippy cup getters any longer, still greatly preferred the company of Mommy and Daddy (although she had taken to calling both of us mommy now and pointing to the one she wants).

Christmas day was fun.  The kids all had a great time tearing into their presents.  Sabrina really got the whole gift thing this year so she had a grand time asking what she could open next.  It took some convincing at first for to put some of the gifts aside to keep going but once she got in the grove there was no looking back.  With every gift she opened, she gasped and asked “For me?!?”  And then “Can I open another one Mommy?”

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The most popular gifts of the day seemed to be the musical gifts.  Sabrina got a keyboard and Avadar received a Barbie guitar that everyone wanted to play.  Sabrina and Uncle Pat had a jam session.

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Tessa’s favorite was a cow lawn mower.

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Tessa kept her security froggie with her all week.  She rarely let go of it.

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Several dance parties were had by the kids.

Sabrina slept at Grandma and Pap-pap’s with her cousins the whole time we were in Pittsburgh.  When we finally told her she had to come to the hotel with us because we were heading to Ohio in the morning, she sobbed.  It broke my heart.  She sobbed that she didn’t want to leave.  I, of course, started sobbing too.  I hate that we are so far from so many who love our children.  I hate that family gatherings are special occasions instead of any random Sunday.  I hate hearing my oldest baby so heart broken.  I was ready to turn in my mommy card on the spot.

Christmas the second. We headed to Ohio on Sunday morning to spend a few days with my family.  We had dinner and did gifts with my step mom, sister, brother in law, and nephew.  It was a nice, quiet day.  (Don’t get me started on the Steelers game not being televised 100 miles from Pittsburgh.  Stupid Browns.)  Sabrina was over the previous night’s heart ache and enjoying a new group of people paying attention to her.  Tessa was still carrying froggie and sticking close to Mommy and Daddy.  We enjoyed a few days of hanging out in Ohio and watching it snow.  My sister enjoyed flipping me off every time I tried to enforce a rule with my child while she fed her sugar and painted her nails orange and green.  A good time was had by all.

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Sabrina definitely had the opening presents thing down by this point.

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And Sabrina was in heaven when Grandma Freida made cupcakes with her.

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Tessa was a fan.  This was her first cupcake since she didn’t eat her birthday cupcake.

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p1010959We drove overnight again to get home.  It went a little more smoothly than the trip up but still a couple of tired adults.  We arrived home around 4:30am.  We put both kids to bed and we fell into bed.  We all slept until 9am.  Christmas the third. We gave the girls their presents from us and from Abuela.  By this time, even Tessa was old hat at unwrapping.

See previous post for photos of their cottage and market.  But I think the biggest hit was the play remote my mom got Tessa.  Tessa is ALWAYS trying to steal the remote and press buttons so I suggested she might like one of her own.  She does.  And Sabrina is constantly stealing it from her.

There were some other popular gifts that I’ll share in the coming weeks because I know I’m always curious what is a hit in everyone else’s house so I know what to think about buying or skipping in the future.

Christmas in July For The Win!

Friday, January 1st, 2010

I don’t remember if I shared and I’m too lazy to go back and look but in July, I scored the girls’ major Christmas gifts at a great price.  Toys R Us emailed me a coupon for 75% off any of the Dream Town play sets from Hasbro.  After some online browsing, I decided to go get the Cherry Blossom Market and the Rose Petal Cottage for the girls.  I arrived at the store to find them on clearance in addition to the coupon so I walked out of TRU with both for $32 including tax.  Because the girls are spoiled by family when we head north for the holidays, I only added a doll for Tessa and some board games for Sabrina to round out their gifts from us.  For the record, Candyland with a 3 year old is not a particularly good time.  Also for the record, it is faster and easier to put up a 6 person tent than assemble the market and cottage.

Sabrina already had a play tent.  When we added the new gifts, we realized the girls now have a whole little village to play in.  All they need is a 3 car garage to house the new bikes from their aunt and uncle (yes Rusty and Mike we are going to get them tomorrow).

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Because ownership is a BIG! DEAL! with 3 year olds, the market is Sabrina’s and the cottage is Tessa’s.

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We bought a sleeping bag for Sabrina to sleep in on our trip north to avoid the falling out of bed issue from last year’s trip.  It came with a 3 sided tent so they even have a bedroom.

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I want to know where all of this cool stuff was when we were kids?  I thought the box from the new frig was the Best! Thing! Ever!  Regardless, the girls are having a great time with their new digs.

Happy happy

Friday, January 1st, 2010

Happy New Year to all of you!

Happy birthday to my amazing, wonderful husband.  I couldn’t imagine a better partner in this crazy adventure we are taking.  He is truly the best father and husband I know.  (But WOW he is getting old!)

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I took this photo on Christmas Eve.  The favorite game at Grandma and Pap-pap’s house is WHAM-O.  WHAM-O is played by taking these 2 specific (they are soft) pillows and throwing them into someone’s face while shouting “WHAM-O!”  All of the children think this is the most brilliant game ever invented.  Steve shows the greatest tolerance for WHAM-O so 3 of the 4 children in the house were attacking him.  Sabrina is greatly upset that our house doesn’t possess WHAM-O pillows.


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