Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

The kids and I have been visiting Texas for Spring Break, and we have had a marvelous time. Granted, the weather has not be fabulous and my mother and I battled nasty colds mid-week, but still...

So I'm breaking vacation blog silence today to link up with Grace over at Camp Patton for her Show Us Your Easter Dress link-up. My parents' congregation may be sick of seeing me wear the same dress every time I show up, but I'm not sick of it, and you've never seen it before.

Nice socks, huh?
I was the only one willing to cooperate for photos. Leo was still exhausted from the large family Easter party yesterday, and Maggie was clearly exercising her passive-aggressive tendencies. Oh well. Someday I will look at these photos and think how charming my children were.

I feel like I look more like my maternal grandmother in every picture I take.
And here's one of my mother with the kids. Please check out her oh, so fabulous shoes. My mother is NOT a hoarder, but she has saved these shoes since 1968, and I have never seen her wear them. She busted them out today with her Easter outfit after my niece and I gave her a hard time for keeping them boxed up. I covet those shoes. Even on Easter.


And, since I included my mother, here's one of my father in his Easter dress, or choir robe.


And one more of the three of us, sleepiness and passive-aggressiveness still in full effect even after toys and crafts in the nursery.

Taking pictures is such a pain.
And a final one because everyone needs to see a picture of a four-year-old singing "Twinkle, Twinkle" to the Easter lilies.

Soulful

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Quinoa and Greens


There's nothing terribly original about this recipe, but it's easy and healthy and a common concoction in our kitchen these days. I gobble it up and don't even feel guilty because it's so healthy. The Dude even likes it, and he's no real lover of greens, or healthy food, for that matter. He just slathers it with peanut sauce and goes to town.

I don't follow a specific recipe. I think this dish may have started from a recipe at some point, but now I do it from memory and the ingredients I have on hand. At minimum, you need:

1 c. quinoa
2 c. water
About 2 T. olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic, depending on size and taste, minced (I like a lot of garlic)
A bunch of greens (my favorite is mustard because I like the spiciness, but I usually use kale because it's easier to find; Swiss chard's another good option, probably), washed, de-stemmed, and cut up
Salt

Greens, washed, destemmed, and cut up

Peanut Sauce:
1/4 c. peanut butter (I use natural, chunky peanut butter)
1 1/2 t. rice vinegar
2 t. Soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T. chopped cilantro, if I happen to have it
Hot water

Ingredients for peanut sauce (I don't think light rice vinegar is necessary; it's just what my mother-in-law had in her kitchen)

Obviously, you cook the quinoa in the water. Follow the directions on the package.

Then, you heat the olive oil over medium heat in a deep skillet (or even Dutch oven, because the greens are hard to fit in), and add the garlic and saute briefly. I have a tendency to burn my garlic so I have to be careful here.


Then add the chopped up greens. If you're using a skillet, you might want to add them in a couple of batches to allow the first batch to cook down a bit and leave room for the next batch. I don't like the greens to get very soft so I don't cook them all that long. Probably somewhere between five and ten minutes. Salt them to taste at some point.

Cooking greens in two batches
Some people like to boil tough greens (like kale or collards) before sauteing. I always feel like that's more work, and I like texture.

Finished cooking
While the greens are sauteing, mix up the peanut sauce. I just pour all those ingredients in a bowl and whisk them with a fork. I am not 100% sure about the measurements I've written here so you'll probably want to taste and adjust. Add hot water at the end to thin it out to pouring consistency.

Peanut sauce before adding hot water
I know most people in the world like a little sweetness to their peanut sauce and so add sugar or honey. I have a horror of even the mildest sweetness in peanut sauce, so I never do. Use your judgement here. The garlic and cilantro are optional. Since I love garlic so much, I always put it in, but I don't have cilantro on hand that often so I don't use it much.

I am happy with the protein from the quinoa and peanut sauce in this dish, but I have, on occasion, made this dish with tofu or chicken. You just saute those in the olive oil and garlic before the greens. You need way more oil for tofu than for chicken.

Finally, mix the quinoa and greens in a large bowl. Drizzle the peanut sauce over individual servings. Eat up!

Lest I Forget: Just a Little Attitude

I hardly expect these posts to be interesting to wide audience range, but I think family members will appreciate them. I've done a pretty terrible job of keeping records of all the cute things Maggie has said and done so I'm going to make this blog a receptacle for them. And this way, grandparents can stay up to date, too!

An oldie but goodie: my pretty girl
Maggie patters on pretty much continuously when we are in the car. She asks for the wipers to be turned on, she points out machinery and other interesting sights (cranes, cement trucks, excavators), she reports on Leo's movements and mood. She must have my validation that I have seen the same sights she has and is disappointed when I miss them. For instance:

Maggie: Mama, big green truck!
Me: Where?
Maggie: There!
Me: Where?
Maggie: There!
Me: I can't tell where you mean.
Maggie: Oh, nevermind (definite tone).



Maggie loves a bowl of cereal, Cheerios (plain) by preference. She has one for breakfast every morning and often the first words out of her mouth in the morning are a request for "cereal with D milk in it." She's a pretty good sport about finishing the milk at the bottom of her bowl (which is essential since it has her powderlax dissolved in it) but does need to be reminded.

Me: Maggie, don't forget to drink your milk.
Maggie: Daddy put in cup.
Me, distractedly: Puts what in a cup?
Maggie: D milk, of course.


Wicked Witch Mama, of course, told her she could very well drink the milk out of the bowl. And I wonder why she's a Daddy's girl.





As much as I sometimes miss the days she just did what I said without question, it is good to see her insist on her own way. "ME DO!!!!!!!!!" is a common statement, always spoken loudly and impatiently.  Lately, she insists on getting off the bus without any help, and then sitting on the walk or steps progressively closer to the front door but at a very slow pace. My presence is not appreciated so I check in on her every few minutes until she is ready to enter the house. I caught this picture of her on the front steps before she told me she was ready to come in.

Stubborn little monkey


Monday, March 18, 2013

What I Wore: Grey

I'm dressed for the weather today: grey. I am so sick of winter, I can hardly stand it. I am counting down the days until the take-off Friday morning that will spirit the kids and me to the warmth and sun of the Texas Hill Country. I am counting on that warmth and sun so it better not be one of those fluky cool weeks of early spring in Texas. I want sun and bluebonnets.






The sweatshirt dress trend this last fall/winter seemed right up my alley, and this dress has gotten a lot of wear. It's as serviceable as Marilla Cuthbert would like, but I can dress it up with lacy tights and boots and red lipstick.





Speaking of red lipstick, I just bought this lipstick, and it's a pretty big leap for me. I went up the make-up counter, announced I wanted a red lipstick that complemented my skin tone, and this is what the lady provided. I was pretty sure I would hate it until I saw it on, but I kinda like it. Still takes some guts to wear lipstick this bright, though.




I am excited about my hair today because I got just the right amount of poof behind my headband. Creating this poofiness is not easy for me, and I think it helps keep my headband on. I seem to have an unusually shaped head because stiff headbands hurt like the dickens, and stretchy ones just slide right off (as this one seems to be doing now that I investigate the picture more fully). Yet, I like headbands so I keep trying.



I'm linking up with Not Dead Yet Style for Visible Mondays (the lipstick, not so much the grey) and Monday Mingle over on Mom Trends. Do any of you viewers want to teach me how to do a photo collage for my blog?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Friday, March 15, 2013

What I Wore: To See a Play

Readers, you know I'm a SAHM and that we live in the uber-expensive DC area. Ergo, we don't go out much. The Dude's always on the lookout for dollar beer places, but other than that, our paid excitement is minimal.

So you can imagine I was pretty excited to be offered my father-in-law's ticket to see the critically-acclaimed play Metamorphoses by Mary Zimmerman with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law (read the Washington Post review here). I didn't love the play, but I liked it a lot, and it gets high marks for creativity. The ten actors portray the gods and mortals in seven Roman myths (mostly from Ovid's Metamorphoses), but what made this play especially interesting is that the entire performance occurs in and around a pool of water (the seats surround the pool, as well). For instance, prep school brat Phaeton confesses his daddy issues and misdeeds to his therapist as he floats on a raft in the pool; Orpheus and Eurydice attempt to exit Hades by circling the pool on a boardwalk (this was my favorite interpretation). All the actors got solidly wet at some point or another, as did some of the audience members on the first rows!

It seemed like as good a time as any to snap some outfit pics since I don't have the opportunity to dress up all that much. I wore my thrifted Stella McCartney dress, which makes me sound like an experienced and successful thrifter, which I am most certainly not. But I did find this dress in a thrift store on one of my very few thrift outings and bought it even though it is too big for me. It's seen me through a pregnancy and two postpartum periods, and I just belt it to give me a bit of a figure. I like the off-center buttons and roomy pockets. 

Bare legs ended up being an enormous mistake, but I was just so eager for spring that day, I couldn't stand to put any on. Sometimes I think I can will the season on in with my wardrobe choices.








I also made an effort with my hair. My hair isn't that long or that thick, and I have lots of layers that can make updos tricky. This was my attempt at this hairdo. It didn't turn out looking much like the model because my hair is quite a bit shorter, and I decided to tuck the ends under. But I kind of like how it did turn out, and starting high up on my head helped keep the short pieces from hanging in my eyes. You don't need one of those tools that she has; I just parted my hair and flipped the ponytail through.






This picture is for Beth. Kinda nice together, huh?











We really need a photographer with some talent in this family. This is me trying to direct The Dude on how to hold the camera. He said, "You have to post this one! Call it your Eva Braun photo."


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Birthday Chocolate Cake

This will be my last birthday post for awhile, but I want to share what I consider to be the best birthday cake recipe.

As much as I would like to give the author credit, all I know is this recipe was published in the Des Moines Register in November 1971. The ingredient list is somewhat outdated. For instance, I do not know what fudge pieces are; I just substitute chocolate chips. And I never put oil or an egg in the frosting.

This year, I made cupcakes instead of a cake, and this recipe got me 24 regular cupcakes and six mini ones (but I filled the cupcake molds generously so you could probably get more if you stick to the 2/3 of the cupcake mold rule). I also had about 1/3 cup frosting left over, and I don't think I was skimpy when frosting the cupcakes. I think I must have measured the powdered sugar wrong because I had to double the chocolate and milk to get the frosting to my satisfaction.

So, without further ado, the chocolate cake recipe to beat all others:


Triple-Decker Cake:  A Chocolate Delight
From DM Register 11/14/71

3 to 4 t prepared cocoa mix (or cocoa)
½ c butter, softened
½ c  (f oz) cream cheese, softened
1 ¼ c sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
2 c enriched flour
2 t soda
1 t salt
2 c milk
4 squares (1 oz each) unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 pkg (6 oz) fudge chocolate pieces

Grease three 8-inch round cake pans.  Dust with cocoa mix; set aside.  Cream together butter, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Blen in vanilla.  Stir together flour, soda, and salt.  Thoroughly blend flour mexture into creamed mixture, alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour.  Thoroughly blen melted chocolate into batter.  (takes 15 minutes)

Pour half the batter into prepared pans.  Sprinkle fudge pieces evenly over batter in pans.  Pour remaining batter over.  Bake in 350-degree oven 20 to 25 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.  (Tester may hit a fudge piece and come out sticky; if so, clean tester and try again.)  Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans.  Cool thoroughly before frosting.

Creamy Chocolate Frosting

1 package (6 oz) fudge chocolate pieces
1 T oil
½ c (4 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/3 c butter, softened
4 c sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1 egg
About 1 T milk

Melt chocolate pieces with oil  Beat together cream cheese and butter until fluffy.  Gradually blend in sugar and vanilla.  Blend in chocolate.  Beat in egg.  Add milk, a t at a time, until mixture is of spreading consistency.

Monday, March 11, 2013

???

Maggie calls this a "choo-choo train in the sky."

Birthday Week End

Whew! It is over, and I think it went well for all.

When we discovered Leo's due date (one day before Maggie's birthday, but he ended up being born four days before), I thought, "That's convenient. We'll have joint birthday parties as long as they'll put up with them." What I didn't realize is how exhausting it is to celebrate two birthdays in four days. I need to get geared up for the years to come!

Here are a few pics of the good times had at the weekend culmination of all birthday festivities:

Ready for a birthday party!
Leo enjoys cake a cupcake at the birthday party.
Beautiful birthday weather so we take a trip to the National Mall.
Leo and the Washington Monument
Blowing out birthday candles
Maggie's favorite activity

Saturday, March 9, 2013

My Monkey Girl



And now it is time for an open letter to my girl:




Maggie,

    What a tremendous year this has been for you! While your parents have struggled and stressed, you have emerged from your shell and made amazing gains. Around this time a year ago, you suddenly became a risk-taker. You climbed and jumped and scrambled over rocks. You began to communicate verbally. We were amazed and thrilled with your growth.
     I don't know if you were just ready to make a large developmental leap or whether it was the effect of years of therapy kicking in. I'm inclined to lay a lot of the credit at the feet of Mr. Rich, your occupational therapist. Your biweekly sessions with him were basically one-on-one gymnastics lessons. You swung and jumped and crashed and climbed, all in order to strengthen your vestibular system. I didn't buy in to the theory that all that activity to stir up the fluid in your ears would really lead to global developmental growth, but I was sure proved wrong.


    Not to knock your other therapists and teachers though. We were very pleased with the support and instruction you received through the public school system, and we all loved your teachers at your preschool, Maria, Jenny, and Dawson. They were the perfect blend of kindness and firmness. You even named your plush puppy Dawson. We're also very happy with the preschool you currently attend four mornings a week. Whereas a lot of your academic growth has occurred under your own steam, I think your developing number sense is the result of activities at school. You're getting better at counting with one to one correspondence and can count into the teens!

      Speaking of school, nothing surprised me more when you told me you wanted to ride the bus. I made you wait a week before talking to your teachers since I was sure you would change your mind. But you didn't, and the first day you rode the bus, you didn't even look back. I'm the one who cried!

     Your love of books continues, and still one of your favorite outings is to the library. Maisy, Lowly Worm, Pete the Cat, Sal, Frances, and Frog and Toad are some of your favorite characters. I get so tickled when you tell your cheese, "Hello, lunch!" or ask me to sing "Happy Chompo to me."

 

     No doubt as a result of your great love of books, you have some pretty strong literacy skills. You can recognize all letters of the alphabet and know most of their sounds. You can recite the letters of your name and recognize it, Leo's name and a few other key words when you see them.

     But your growth in vocal output has been the greatest source of delight for us this last year. You have transitioned from using a handful of single words to using complete sentences. You still use endearing mispronunciations like blell (bell), blowm (brown), and jama (pajama), but you no longer call your brother "Eo" and no longer tack "-doh" to the end of words (Daddy and I still say "monkey-doh" and "bumpy-doh" because we miss those words).

     You are a lover of routine. Every morning, without fail, you request, "cereal with D milk in it." And then, dependably, "Me pick poon. Me pick monkey pill." An outsider might think we try to put water in your cereal or choose the spoon and vitamin ourselves. You have also some strong and irrational fears and enjoy reciting them. "Me no like big cock, tick-tock, tick-tock; noisy han dijer; noisy flush; sun coming in bline; showver head; leaning over water."

      You've also become more interested in art projects this year. You've loved to stick on stickers for some time, but now you like to draw with markers and paint. You have just started to tell me what you've drawn, often snakes and tigers. And you've started to do more pretend play, especially with kitchenware. You bring me pretend coffee and love to mimic animals in gait or sound.

     Your emerging fashion sense is utterly charming. Daddy gives you the most leeway in outfit choices, and the days he helps dress you, you're likely to wear wild combinations. But I love that you have become comfortable stating your preferences, and I am proud to see you confident enough to make your own choices. And, of course, I love that you love girly clothes like tutus, red mary janes, and flowered rain boots. When given a choice, you're likely to choose bright pink and vibrant patterns, especially combined with other prints. I dressed like this at your age, too, so I love to see a little of me coming through.

     You have a sweet singing voice and carry a tune quite well, especially for your age. At the beginning of your fourth year, you were carrying tunes with syllables, but now you sing the actual words and sometimes even sing along with an adults. Old McDonald and I've Been Working on the Railroad (especially "fe-fi-fiddly-i-o") are favorites right now, but you've also loved Twinkle, Twinkle and Wheels on the Bus enough to get us good and sick of them. During the summer, You Are My Sunshine began to make you cry. It's still a puzzle to us. You would ask for me to sing it at bedtime and then begin to cry ("sad eye, Mama"). So we'd switch to a happier song. Yet, you would ask for it nightly. Now the list of sad-eye songs has expanded to include Rainbow Connection, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and I See the Moon, and you don't ask for them much, but when you insist on them, they always make you cry. You have a sentimental side, clearly.

     You love your brother dearly, but you have a strong desire to control his behavior. You want to dictate what toys he is allowed to play with and are quick to tattle when he tries to escape a confined area. The minute he starts to speak up, you are likely to scream, "No, Leo!" which is not pleasant for anyone. Whereas you don't want him near you while you're playing, you seem drawn to him while he is nursing, leaning over him and saying, "Leo, Leo, Leo" while you push him with your fingertips. On the other hand, you have been incredibly sweet with him. One of the sweetest memories of the year is when you went through a phase of wanting to read to Leo (back when he couldn't move around so well). You would recite words and phrases from your favorite books to him as you turned the pages.


      You seem to be more stubborn on a daily basis. You are willing to sit outside the house rather than come in and eat the bread and cheese I made for your lunch that you insisted you didn't like (but you really love). I know this is a natural developmental stage, and I am so pleased you know and are willing to state your preferences, but this can be very difficult. You want to make all the choices when it comes to your food, clothing, and activities, and we try to honor this within reason, but you still pitch a fit if you don't get your way in a seemingly minor decision.

 




     You're still very much Daddy's girl and prefer him to me for almost every activity. I also get to deal far more often with your misbehaviors, and I'm the one who usually has to send you to time out. But, we've started to bond a bit more lately over baking projects and art projects (areas Daddy has little interest in). I'm looking forward to more mother-daughter time in the years to come.

     It will be exciting to watch your future unfold. You exceeded all our expectations this year, and we can't wait to see what this next year will bring!

    

Thursday, March 7, 2013

I felt this way a year ago but not anymore...

Everyone who terrifies you is sixty-five percent water.
And everyone you love is made of stardust, and I know sometimes you cannot even breathe deeply, and the night sky is no home,
and you have cried yourself to sleep enough times that you are down to your last two percent, but
nothing is infinite,
not even loss.
You are made of the sea and the stars, and one day
you are going to find yourself again.

 Finn Butler (Source: thatkindofwoman)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Snowquester: A Bust; First Birthday: A Hit


What a disappointment! We were promised by Capital Weather Gang to get a good eight inches of snow, and what did we get? A measly inch that melted when the snow turned to rain!





We stayed busy in the morning baking cupcakes. I was fortunate enough to have my faithful kitchen assistant at the ready to help pour in ingredients and taste the batter.


"Me hniff." Or, taste?





Her song today?
"Old McDonald had some milk/eggs/sugar, E-I-E-I-O!" 





Maggie was also an extremely helpful present-unwrapping-assistant. She's such a giver.











By the time Maggie and I headed out for our outdoor adventure, the snow was practically gone. We made the most of our bundles by making footprints in whatever leftover snow we could find and splashing in puddles.

And, delight of delights, we found a worm lounging on the sidewalk!

The greatest success of the day was Leo's reaction to his birthday cupcake. A hit!