Archive for March, 2009

What A Week!

Posted by laura on Mar 27 2009 | Fun

Whew! Has it been a week? Unbelievable. This one went like a rocket. Here are some highlights:

RHYTHM

Our friend Andy plays drums in a band called Cheap Therapy (I know – such a great name), so last Friday we had a babysitter for all the kids and went out and danced all night. The band was fantastic, Andy was inspiring, we all had an amazing time. One of the songs they play is Feelin’ Alright, and every time I hear the opening keyboard for that song it makes me crazy happy because it reminds me of a favorite mix from Joe, years ago. 

RAINBOWS

We went for a walk last weekend in the morning with our neighbors. This is what we saw:
doublerainbow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It turned into a double rainbow and was simply spectacular. We chased it down but all we found in the pot was a snarky little note about how all the gold had gone to the bailouts. Bummer.

 

soccer1

 

 

 

 

 

CLEATS

Hot Wheels started his first soccer thing, and at 5 he was one of maybe a third of the group who hadn’t played before. There were some serious ringers in this group. Yikes! They were all kinds of cute, though. We were particularly grateful to the Orlandis for giving Hot Wheels some cool Puma gear last summer so he looked like hot stuff out on the field.

soccer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PLANES

There’s always a moment in the life of a Lego kit when the owners can finally release the ideal of the kit object and let all the pieces go into the big lego collective. It’s a great scene when the astronauts meet Indiana Jones and the medieval knights on the playing field. In our home, most kits are quickly assimilated by the borg ottoman that houses our mixed lego collection. The only holdout right now is the airplane. It took so long to put together the first time, Honey’s not quite ready to let it go into the wilds of the loose lego. 

This week a friend of hers from school came over, and he spent a good amount of time trying to put the plane together, and he did a great job. The bummer about the big Lego plane, though, is that it takes ages to assemble but milliseconds to break. So all his hard work ended up all over the floor just before he went home. Such a shame. Honey revised the plane later in the week, though, and made this:

legoshortplane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So much more stable – I love the proportions on this guy.

 

TAKE OUT:

This week we were on the schedule to bring dinner to our friends whose daughter is quite sick. I’ve always been curious about what the best foods are to bring to people after a baby or a sickness, etc. Here’s what I came up with this time around: 

- Container of raw cut veggies (I always throw one of those in because I detest cleaning and chopping veggies when I’m tired, so I think they’re handy)

- Mum’s dinner rolls

- Penne with roasted butternut, leek, zucchini, chicken and brown butter sage (with some goat cheese to crumble on the top)

- Mixed greens with basil and orange

- Gingersnaps

There were a few more odds and ends – drinks and spare snacky things – but that was the main idea. Plus some orange gerber daisies because they’re gorgeous. Have some good dinner delivery ideas? I’d love to hear them…

 

CHEEPS

The chicks are getting bigger and bigger. Here they are having a little jaunt in the garden:

chicks

 

Susie and Finn told the kids they could name them, which was both kind and brave. Hot Wheels named his (on the left in the photo) Crystal Chickie, and Honey named hers Opaquea (that’s Opaque with an ‘ah’ at the end). Now Hot Wheels, I get – he names everything Crystal. Why? Not sure. Maybe it’s the most magical sounding thing he can dream up. But Opaquea? Heaven only knows.

The chicks are growing like mad – you can see their feathers filling in more each day. Twice we’ve come home to find them standing in the middle of the room wondering what happened. I’ll tell you what happened – they flew out of the box, that’s what! They’re getting stronger and sleeker every day and are darned cute, which is lucky for them, the tricky little things.

 

Happy weekend, everybody!

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Welcome!

Posted by laura on Mar 20 2009 | Uncategorized

Our great friends, Amy and Andy, were having some people over for dinner one night. Their daughter, who is the same age as Honey, wrote WELCOME on a piece of paper and taped it to the front door for the guests to see as they arrived. Not to be outdone, her little brother, who is the same age at Hot Wheels, wrote his own welcome sign and taped it to the door. His sign said ARTYBO!!! 

It didn’t take long for Artybo! to become a household refrain. They say it to each other when they come into the house and call it out to us when we turn up as well. Pretty soon it was clear there was only one thing to do…

artybo1artybo2

 

artybo3

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Chicken Littles

Posted by laura on Mar 18 2009 | Awesome, Fun

Honey is eight, as I’ve mentioned before. Like many an eight year old, she is a fervent lobbyist for No Pet Left Behind, with a firm agenda that every household should have at least a dozen pets. Like many a lobbyist, she is persistent and wily, but the administration has remained inflexible on this issue, citing frequency and duration of the travel schedule as its main objection.

Now, however, we’ve stumbled into what might be one of the best pet programs imaginable. Our friends Finn and Susie keep chickens up at their house, which already is great for us since they take all our food scraps to feed their chickens – awesome. But on top of that, they just ordered six new babies and asked if Honey & Hot Wheels would like to borrow two of them for a little while! We get to cuddle them and watch over them while they’re tiny and unbelievably cute, and then we can visit them when their bigger and beautiful. How great is that? They are insanely adorable and do wacky things like take dust baths in their food bowl and rap on their box like they’re calling a meeting to order. I’m also convinced that they’re in cahoots to escape said box and take over the whole house, so I’ve let them know I have my eye on them.

 

Watch out, little chickie!!!

Watch out, little chickie!!!

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Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Posted by laura on Mar 17 2009 | Holiday, Tasty

irishbreadTime for a cup of tea and some Irish bread, wouldn’t you say? I made mine last night so the morning wouldn’t be a rush. Called home to wish Mum and Dad a happy day, and found out Mum just finished making FIVE Irish breads.

winfoley

 

 

Looks like someone is angling for my button!

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Monday Muffins

Posted by laura on Mar 16 2009 | Tasty

bananamuffin It’s rainy and grey again – perfect muffin weather. We walked in from school, dropped our bags on the floor and threw these muffins together. They’re my absolute favorites, and I can have them mixed and baked in a half an hour. Then my only task is to restrain myself from eating every last one.

Back when we first found out about Hot Wheels’ allergies, my cousin Sarah sent us a box. If she hadn’t already earned my undying love for all kinds of coolness, like letting me play with her shoes back when she was in high school and for teaching us how to hurdle one night when she was babysitting, she would have had it with this box.

We had just been told casually that Hot Wheels couldn’t eat eggs, soy, nuts, peas, and a few random odd things like shellfish. We also found out that he was allergic to dust mites, which meant no rugs, drapes, books or stuffed animals in his room (ha! at the time he was just shy of 2 years old). We needed to buy all kinds of new protective bedding and clean out his space. He had other allergies, but he’d just have to deal with those because the rest were such a royal pain, they were all we could manage.

My sister in law, Keri, had helped me to completely clean out our kitchen and pantry shelves – a task that took us all day and was more help than I ever could have imagined – and I was still trying to figure out what foods could go back on those shelves. To say we were overwhelmed would be an understatement.

Then in came Sarah, who had been through all of this with her son. Unfortunate for them but very fortunate for us. The box she sent was filled with recipes (including a cookbook from the Food Allergy News Cookbook) and foods they liked – most memorably a bag of cheesy puffs that made us all very happy. Her knowledge truly carried us through those early days.

In the cookbook she sent me, I found the recipe for banana muffins that is still my favorite to this day. (Check out the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network website – they’re an incredible resource for food allergy issues.)

I’ve made a few changes to the recipe, but here it is:

2 bananas, mashed

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup safflower oil

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup wheat flour 

1/2 cup white flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 heaping tbsp ground flax

tiny handful of chocolate chips, chopped up fine

Bake 325 degrees for 20 min (makes ~11)

 

When our bananas go brown, we throw them in the freezer, then microwave them to thaw for baking. For some reason, I think this makes them better in baked goods – they’re smoother and mushier, so they’re well incorporated in the final product. I’ve also used regular bananas that are a bit soft, and they’re still good, but I like the frozen ones even better. Go figure. I also like to use the King Arthur White Whole Wheat in these – just has great flavor and texture. The flax gives them a slightly nutty flavor, which is nice. And finally, I use about 20 chocolate chips and chop them up in to teeny pieces – it makes the muffins taste unbelievably chocolatey (I think because the flavor is spread throughout the batter) and the kids think they’re getting away with murder.

Best part – they’re not bad for you! In fact they’re pretty good for you. I entered the ingredients into an online recipe calculator, and they come out to 140 calories, which isn’t bad for a muffin. Plus, if you pick your chocolate chips carefully, they can be vegan as well, which can be handy.

Tea break!

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Tuning In

Posted by laura on Mar 15 2009 | Awesome

Life with HotWheels is a bit like spending most of your days beside a radio that is always on, and semi-permanently tuned to KCAR, “Your Trusted Source for Everything Car.” Every day, he performs long, loud, elaborate races with his cars. They talk to each other and make noises that probably sound like a bad posse of  Nascar V-8s inside his head, but to the rest of us sound more like a Mad Max fan motor that’s burnt out of lubricant. Because I’m his mother, I actually like it, but I respect that it can be a bit of a strain for anyone visiting or even on the phone. My favorite part is when he comes dashing in to exclaim, “Mummie – great news! Guess who’s in fourth place? Chick Hicks! Jason is in third, and it looks like Sophia’s going to win!” (He combines cars from movie and game sources to make his own spicy blend.) Then he’ll tear back to the race – to see how it all comes out, of course.

As we ride to his preschool, the station usually runs its ‘Auto Identification in the AM’ show. It often sounds like this – “See that Honda? That’s Derek’s.” As we bike past the line of cars outside the school, it’s a running commentary, “Trevor’s dad drives that one… this is Chloe’s…” He has loved calling out car names for a long time – it started with easy ones like Mini Coopers and PT Cruisers, but now he’s getting more refined. It’s a handy skill to have around, to identify acquaintances’ cars, or even bikes, when we’re out and about. 

The program I’m least fond of at the moment is the Race Recap – it seems to be on ALL the time, and just runs constant reruns of famous races from various games. He loves to just ruminate over the details of a great race, but I’m afraid it might be your textbook ‘you had to be there’ scenario.

Occasionally the programming drifts over to other topics – science, nutrition (of all things) and pure fiction. In the science category we have Big Questions, which I love. It’s an open-ended approach; heavy on questions and light on answers. Some recent ones have been, “Are everybody’s brains the same color?” “What can break the sun?” and “Can a Porche ever beat a Ferrari?” You can see that the programming does always drift back to the main topic eventually. 

When he was younger, it dawned on me one day that at some point I’d no longer have a family member who would shout “FIRE TRUCK!!!!!” every time he heard or saw one drive by, and that made me sad. The good news is that although that day has come and gone, his fascinations shift, and he’s still excited to talk about them. Now, whatever the station, I’m just grateful the radio’s on.

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Thursday’s Word to the Wise

Posted by laura on Mar 12 2009 | Not So Fun, Uncategorized

Tuesday morning, when household sickness indicated that I wouldn’t be getting out for ballet or bike riding, I had a crazy thought. It went something like this, “I know! I’ll get up early and do one of the workout videos on Netflix.” Looks like I’m an ideas woman. An ideas woman who can get on-demand videos on Netflix these days, even with her teeny membership. Hooray for Netflix! Never mind that I’ve never done one of their exercise videos before – this was a new beginning.

So Tuesday morning I popped out of bed and whistled my way through one of those yoga+abs routines. It was so easy! I never had a moment when I wondered if I could keep going, which was a great feeling, I tell you. As an added plus, I felt super all day long, thanks to my powerful start.

Then yesterday, as I sliced oranges for the kids’ snack, I heard quiet sobbing, and it was my triceps. There were a few muscles in my back that were exceedingly put out as well. They were muttering all day about having a perfectly nice nap and rude awakenings. Of all the nerve. (Exactly! is what you’re thinking.) 

It looks like Thursday’s Word to the Wise is: approach with caution all extra-curricular activities involving the word ‘crunch.’ [Unless preceded by the word 'Nestlé.' That's ok.]

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Sickies

Posted by laura on Mar 11 2009 | Not So Fun, Tasty

It’s been a sick start to the week, and not in a cool, insane kind of way – more like the sad, droopy, bags-under-their eyes way. Actually Hot Wheels is feeling good again so he’s back at PreK this morning, but Honey’s still looking a little grey. I should probably dust off my gown for the Bad Parenting Awards, because we’re bound to get a nomination for Monday morning. Honey had not felt well on Saturday, but on Sunday she seemed like she was making some serious progress; she took a bike ride and played with a friend in the afternoon. She wasn’t feeling great Sunday evening, and in the morning she was a bit draggy, but it was Monday morning, after all, and she seemed to be holding her own. She literally had one foot out the door when I said, “Wait – let’s just check your temperature to see if something’s going on here,” and it was 101.8. Hm. Step away from the backpack, girl; you’re staying home.

lemonpoppyseed

 

We kept Hot Wheels home too, since it seemed like he was bound to have whatever she had, and sure enough by afternoon he was running a temperature as well. At least I assume he was, by the steam rising from his forehead. He can never hold a thermometer under his tongue, due to the combination of a well-honed gag reflex and a permanently blocked nose. I really have to get one of those ear thermometers.

The good news is my mother gene eventually showed up for work that day, so on top of running drinks and soul food for the patients, I was able to get the invoicing done for work, throw in a couple loads of laundry, clean up a bit, bake the bread and make these lemon poppyseed muffins. We have a wealth of fruit right now from our lemon tree shrub and Joan’s tree across the street, so I’ve been looking for good recipes. I got this one from Allrecipes, and they turned out well – I ended up using some whole wheat flour, vanilla yogurt and cutting the amount of poppy seeds to less that 1/8cup, due to personal preferences and what I had in the house. This recipe was great, though, because it actually called for lemon juice and not just zest.

potpieLast night I made pot pie since, well, it’s pot pie. No need for excuses. Hot Wheels was so happy he was singing to it. I had onion, butternut, carrot, sweet potato and zucchini in there and they all got along quite well. With just a top crust, it’s easy to plunk down on top of some chicken or a veggie meat thing if you like. Great for tailoring meals for different diets. 

Now I’ve got to go be Nurse Nancy. Remember to drink plenty of fluids, everyone!

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Sauce

Posted by laura on Mar 08 2009 | Awesome, Tasty, Travel

Every summer, as most of you know, we head back to Boston for a few weeks to see our family and spend some time at the beach. When I was growing up, I’d start planning for our August beach weeks sometime around now, in March, when the grey and the cold and the slush were just never ending. Not much has changed, except now I have two kids who do the same thing. We might not have slush, but we are already pining for Boston and the beach.

Most of the huge joy of this trip is seeing our extended family – there are cousins and aunts and uncles and second cousins and greats and once removeds and twice returneds… there are even some great greats. It’s awesome, and our kids are lucky to know so many members of their big wonderful family. The only hard part of the visit is how much it makes us miss everyone when we’re not there.

Last summer, the kids and I were at Rosemary Pool one late afternoon with our cousins Eileen and Kevin and their three superb kids, and they were kind enough to invite us over for dinner. It was a perfect end to a perfect day, and it fit neatly into our conniving scheme to not cook for ourselves once during our vacation. Don’t look at me – it was all Honey’s idea. We rocked up to Eileen and Kevin’s that night, and even from the driveway we could smell the delicious dinner cooking. We were impressed, then excited, then suspicious, because I swear they left the pool at the same time we did. Sure, we made a pit stop at Trader Joe’s (and bumped into Mary, which was a treat), but it wasn’t nearly enough time to get the whole neighborhood smelling so good. Something was up that night – some kind of superhero dinner thing – because the the food they cooked was beyond delicious. They made a pasta sauce that was so amazing I swooned, but they told me that they’d never give me the recipe, not even if I saved them all from a burning building, and I’ve never had that divine sauce again.

Ok so that last line is a teeny bit untrue. They did give me the recipe, but I can’t find the very important, specific tomatoes required, so I haven’t had the sauce again. Humph. I’ve never been a great one for making sauce – it always seems to come out thin and uninspired instead of rich and beautiful. (I know I know, story of my life.) Well a couple of weeks ago I stumbled across a new way of making sauce that’s making up for lost time. It’s a slow-roasted sauce, and it’s easy (yay!) and really quite good.

roastedsauceYou take a bunch of tomatoes (8ish has worked well for us), slice them in half, and toss them in a large ziplock bag. Add some veggies if you like – onion, red pepper, mushroom – just wash them and chop them a bit, although the pieces can be pretty big. Then add some olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar, some honey, salt and pepper, garlic. I like to save any herbs until the end. Close up the bag and shake it all about until all the contents have mingled and gotten to know each other, then roll everything out of the bag and into a pan (like a brownie pan) and slow roast the whole thing at about 280 for the afternoon. I’m not kidding – you let it cook for about 4 hours.

When it’s cooked, you just pop it in the blender and you’re done. You can tweak the spices and throw in some fresh herbs to tailor it to your taste, but that’s it. No blanching or peeling or stirring or anything. It makes the house smell divine and it has a lovely flavor. There you have it – sauce. This should tide me over until July. 

tortellini

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Wow!

Posted by laura on Mar 03 2009 | Awesome, Tasty

Ok, east coasters, avert your eyes. That goes for you, too, midwesterners. In fact, let’s just say if you live someplace that actually has winter, cover your ears and say, “lalalalalala I’m not listening” or something. But the rest of you, look! 

hail1Wow!! This is the hail that fell on our back deck this afternoon. It’s been stormy weather around town today – alternating blue skies with sheeting rain, hail, thunder, lightning and gusting winds. 

hail2Lately the weather here has been grey and sentimental, but this, this is bold and capricious! Very exciting. It does hail here from time to time, but the thunder is thrilling. I’ve heard it thunder here only a handful of times since I moved here – and when I say a handful, I mean that literally; you’ll hear one good clap of thunder, and that’s it – show’s over, folks, please make your way to the exits. Today we had TWO claps of thunder, so we’ve met our quota for the next three years. 

It was a good day for cooking, so I baked a chicken using the easiest method in the world. Basically, you poke a couple of lemons all over with one of those turkey skewer thingies, and pop them in the chicken (after you’ve rinsed and salted and peppered it) and bake it. It couldn’t be easier, but it always comes out perfectly moist and delicious. My friend Susie gave me the recipe a year or two ago, and it’s my favorite way to cook a chicken now. 

Tonight I also cubed and roasted some butternut squash and sweet potato, and for dinner we layered shredded spinach (raw), couscous, roasted veggies, basil, chicken (veggie burger for Tom) and then a few dollops of Jalapeño Chutney from the farmer’s market. The chutney adds a nice flavor – sweet and spicy at the same time.

Anyway, I thought I’d throw that in there just because it ended up tasting good and I know I’m always looking for new ideas for dinner, and I’m bound to forget this one. Some day I’ll come across this post in the archives and think – ooh! That sounds good.

To fill out my random assortment tonight, I’ll also mention another TED lecturer I checked out yesterday – Chris Abani. He’s a writer and poet from Nigeria, and his stories are powerful and funny and horrifying. Not always an easy listen, but a number of excerpts from the talk I heard yesterday have lingered at the front of my mind all day today. 

One was a great line from his mother, who used to say, “Anything a man can do, I can fix.”

Another was this observation:

“What I’ve come to learn is that the world is never saved in grand messianic gestures but in the simple accumulation of gentle, soft, almost invisible acts of compassion. Every day acts of compassion.”

I like that “simple accumulation.” Today we listened, or complimented, or remembered, or thanked, or noticed – and added to that accumulation.

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