Tuesday, April 26, 2011

New York Easter Circus Weekend

Happy Belated Easter.  I have been away from the computer because we spent Easter weekend in Upstate New York with Kevin's family.  A good time was had by all.  There was egg-coloring, egg hunting, baskets full of candy and toys, cousins to play with, a birthday party, lots of good food, and three cakes.  One day for breakfast, there were pancakes and ice cream cake.  Needless to say, we all, especially Daphne, had a great time.  And somehow, I managed to LOSE a pound while I was there.  Incredible.

The weather wasn't great, but that was OK. 
Easter morning was foggy, but eventually the sun came out.

The trip to NY was kinda last-minute.  We had bought tickets to take Daphne to the circus on Easter afternoon as a surprise, and thought we'd just have to skip it because of the trip, but on the way home Sunday, we realized that we could get there just in time if we went directly to the Patriot Center without going home first.  Daphne didn't know anything about it.  As we got close, we told her that our GPS must be broken, and that it was taking us the wrong way.  We stopped at the arena and went to Will Call  "to ask for directions."  Daphne was pretty surprised when we were handed three tickets and ended up at the Greatest Show on Earth. *

She chose a tiger snow-cone cup as her souvenir.  It was eleven dollars.  ELEVEN DOLLARS!  But she was happy.  After the circus, we found a nearby kabob place for dinner and didn't get home until after 9:00.  It was a long, exhausting day, but it was worth it.  

Now we're home and trying to get back into the routine.  I am doing a TON of laundry today.  What I REALLY want to do is play with my new pasta-making tools that Kev got me for Easter.  There is a lot of ravioli in our future.  But it will have to wait until next week. 

On a serious note, my Uncle Danny was in a very bad accident over the weekend.  Here is what's left of the car:

Scary, huh?  He is in the hospital with several broken bones, but miraculously NO head injuries.  It will be a long recovery, but it could have been so much worse.  So far, no one knows the cause of the accident, but there is a chance there may have been some texting involved.  PLEASE, for the love of all that is good in this world, stay off your phone when you are driving.  I cannot stress enough how dangerous this is.  I see people doing it all the time and it infuriates me.  Especially when I have Daphne in the car with me.  Nothing is so important that it can't wait until you're off the road.  And if it IS so important, just pull over.  Lecture over.  No, it's not.  DON'T TEXT AND DRIVE!  Ok, now it's really over.  Only good thoughts now for Danny and his family.  They are really good people and this shouldn't have happened to them.

OK...I better get off my soap box and get back to Laundry Mountain.  I hope you had a safe and happy Easter Weekend. 

Lots of pictures from our trip on flickr if you wanna see...

* This is debatable.  It had its moments, but I've seen greater. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Quick Hits

  • Yesterday I made spaghetti and meatballs. I used Italian turkey sausage in the meatballs and they were just as tasty as with the usual pork. No one noticed the difference. Yay, lean protein!

  • The next new recipe I want to try is this one. Except without the peas.

  • I just got some Elvis Costello tickets! Come on, June 15!

  • Two of my favorite people and their cool kids are coming to visit us in August. I can't wait.

  • If I ever start calling restaurants "restos," please smack some sense into me.

  • GG suggested putting a time capsule into the squirrel wall. I love this idea. Must get to work on that.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Conference, an Animal Rescue, Some Rain, and a Festival

Thursday, I made the short drive over the blue bridge to Frederick, MD for a conference. It was just like it always is...a big cold crowded hotel conference room full of strangers on uncomfortable chairs. But the subject matter was interesting this time. The morning session focused on current research regarding the link between toxins and autism. I won't go into detail, but toxins are BAD. And we are faced with them daily. And there's not a whole lot you can do about it. But there are a few easy things you CAN do (if you want) to reduce exposure to toxins for you and your family:

  • Do not microwave food in plastic containers of any kind.

  • Avoid styrofoam, especially if it contains hot things (ie. coffee). Styrofoam is bad.

  • Avoid plastics with a recycle number of 3 or 6 (that's the number in the little triangle).

  • Wash your fruits and vegetables. Buy organic if you can. Pesticides are bad. (Fact: Children of farmers have a higher incidence of autism).

  • CFL lightbulbs contain mercury which can be released if broken. Mercury is bad.

  • Avoid un-natural food dyes. Like in Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms.

None of these things are hard to do. They won't hurt, and they might help.

Slightly related: Did y'all see Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution in LA last week...specifically the segment about ground beef? Holy crap. Jamie Oliver can be a little over the top at times, but I truly believe that HE truly believes in what he's doing. He cares. Good for him. Fight the power, Jamie. I'm right there with ya. Please tell me how I can get flavored milk out my kid's school before she starts kindergarten. I will do whatever I have to do.

On a completely different note, Kev is awesome. For lots of reasons. But this time, specifically, because he rid our walls of the squirrel family which had taken up residence there. First, after a false start in which he accidentally trapped a 'possom, he trapped the Mama Squirrel:

She was really mad, but she was not hurt. She then waited in the trap while Kev cut into the drywall and fished out the babies:

Sadly, only one of the two babies was still alive. Meet Theodore:

We then took a family trip out to the country and released Theodore and his Mama into the woods of Hogback Mountain. Theodore's new nest is inside this hollow log:

Then, poor Kev completed the gruesome task of removing Theodore's brother. Daphne doesn't know about that. I kept her outside. Poor little thing. Poor Kev. Shudder. Anyway, Kev is a big hero around here. And he saved us the $450 that the squirrel removal professionals wanted us to pay for the same job. I was no help at all. I sat far away, up on a chair in case of escaped angry squirrels. Good thing we don't live in pioneer times.

So, YAY! Our house is critter-free!

Saturday, it rained ALL DAY. Soccer was cancelled for the third week in a row. Kev and Daphne had a campout in the playroom:

And Daphne and I baked some chocolate chip cookies for a snack:

Yesterday, the sun came out, so we went to the Leesburg Flower and Garden Festival with my mom and dad. It was a little crowded, but not too bad. Daphne got her face painted and collected treasures like balloons, stickers, seed packets, and so forth. And she hung out with Grandma and Grandpa while Kev and I strolled around and went to the wine and beer garden. We came home with a giant rug for our porch made completely from recycled pastic bottles (I hope not #3 or #6!) and a hanging plant container. Our porch is such a happy place now. If only we could sit on it. Every day is rainy or chilly. It is mid-April, and I have gone outside without a coat only 2 or 3 times. I keep putting off getting a pedicure because it's too cold for flip flops. This has really been a weird Spring. It was a weird winter too. Who knows what the summer will be like. I want to ride my bike, though. We're thinking about doing Bike DC this year, which is a 20 mile bike ride around the District (the roads are closed to cars). But I feel like I need to do at least a LITTLE training in case of hills before I attempt something like that.

It's Spring Break now, and Easter next weekend. There probably won't be a lot of blogging going on this week, so have a Happy Easter, and I'll be back soon. Hopefully with no tales of wildlife rescues or critter invasions. Which reminds me...I better make sure Kev picked up all the squirrel traps. Wouldn't want to catch the Easter Bunny!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I Love Sandwiches

I would tell you about our ants and squirrels and temper tantrums and various ailments, but I'm trying to keep the positivity going (and there are no lions, after all), so I will just tell you instead, in case you don't already know, that April is Grilled Cheese Month.  We celebrated last night with grilled sourdough with mozzerella, crispy prosciutto and basil, and some marinara dipping sauce.  Grilled cheese month is a great excuse to make a super easy dinner, and it's good too. 

Today I am taking Daphne to register for Kindergarten.  I'm not quite sure how I feel about it.

I need some coffee.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hello, Win Column!

Yesterday, Daphne and I went with Uncle Jeff and Grandma to Baltimore. Specifically, to Oriole Park at Camden Yard to see the Orioles play the Great Texas Rangers. It was Daphne's first Major League Baseball Game, and I'd say it was a great initiation. We got to the park, and Daphne posed for a picture with an Oriole mascot statue. Notice, she's giving him the Ranger Claw. Next, we found our seats in Secion 48, on the 3rd base side behind the visitors' dugout. Notice the seats are CUSHIONED! I have never sat on cushioned seats at a ball game before. This was high class! We immediately spied Daphne's favorite player, Josh Hamilton, signing autographs, so we rushed over, but we were too late. Daphne was pretty disappointed because she had made him a picture and wanted to give it to him:
All was not lost, though. Jeff and I took her over to see the inside of the Ranger's dugout. You may notice in the background, standing inside the dugout, a member of the Oriole's organization, kinda peering our way . Soon after this photo was taken, he came over and began nudging Jeff's foot. We thought he was trying to get Jeff to stop sitting on the rail, but when we looked down, he was holding a mysterious object wrapped in a paper towel, which he very sneakily handed to Daphne.

It was an Official Major League Baseball baseball! And it had been used, probably in batting practice or something. Daphne may as well have won the lottery. She was so excited. So nice of that old guy to give it to her. Especially since she was wearing an enemy t-shirt!
Also at the game, she got a certificate from the Fan Services people to show that she attended her first game. The lady from Fan Services snuck around and handed her a giant foam Orioles #1 finger. Maybe it's the orange hair, but this kid was getting all kinds of free loot. From us, she got a program, a hot dog, peanuts and crackerjacks, and a plastic helmet full of ice cream. And to top it all off, the Rangers won 3-0. And Daphne made it through the whole game with nary a complaint.
The whole day made me so happy. I remember when I was little going to Cincinnati with my grandparents to see the Reds play. I remember eating hot dogs and yelling "Charge!" and thinking the ballpark was the greatest place ever. I got to see greatness like Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Ken Griffey, and my favorite player as a kid, Dave Concepcion. I hope Daphne remembers yesterday in the same way. And I hope it's just the first of many trips to the ballpark. Thanks to Jeff for the tickets, and thanks to Grandma for going with us and handling everything in the back seat. It was a really fun day. Let's do it again soon.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Big D

Here is a photo of the Dallas skyline taken by my good friend Rob R. This is my new favorite photo of all time. Rob said he would send me a print, and I am going to frame it and hang it up somewhere in my house. Dallas has a great skyline. My friend Bryce claims it is David Bowie's favorite skyline. I have no idea where he got that information, but I'm always a fan of the Fun Fact. Anyway, this photo makes me happy and homesick at the same time. See that arch over there on the left? That was not there the last time I was in Texas. Life in Dallas just goes on without me. Sigh. There's all kinds of cool new places to go and things to do. Dude, Sweet Chocolate. Good 2 Go Taco. Katy Trail Ice House. I think I need a visit.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Puff Pastry and Pests

Sometimes for dinner, we just have fruit and cheese and crackers because I don't really feel like cooking. Sometimes, I'll add a little easy appetizer so that I feel less guilty about it. Last night was fruit and cheese and crackers night, so I made this manchego and mushroom puff pastry appetizer to go with it. I love things you can make with puff pastry. So easy. Here is the recipe. I do the "quick and easy variation" at the bottom because I can't be bothered to cut the pastry into little circles. It tastes the same either way. I don't like olives, so I leave those out. I use balsamic vinegar instead of sherry vinegar, and I use a little more mushrooms and cheese than the recipe calls for. I reserve some manchego to sprinkle on top along with some parmesan. Good stuff.

On Monday, we had ants. Every year at this time, the ants find a way in, we battle them for a while, they win, and we call the ant man. This time, they appeared to be coming in through a gap between the floor and the baseboard in the kitchen, so Kev caulked it and we haven't seen any more ants. But if they want to get in, they'll find another way. It's probably just a matter of time.

Then, last night we discovered that there is a squirrel in the wall between the tv room and playroom. Possibly a mother with babies. So now, I am in talks with three different wildlife removal guys about what can be done. Daphne is excited at the prospect of Real Life Animal Rescue happening at our house. I just want it done. I don't like wildlife in the house. You may remember the Thanksgiving Mouse Incident of 2009. Kev said from now on, our anniversary will be known as Squirrel in the Wall Day. Ugh.

Plus, there are scary spiders in the basement.

Anyway, I will let you know how things turn out with the squirrel. I am off to get Daphne away from Special Agent Oso before her brain turns to mush. See ya later.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Happy Anniversary, Kev!

Big Huge April

April is off to a big start. In its first four days, there has been cold weather, hail, hot weather (86!), and thunderstorms. On Friday, Daphne brought home Clifford, the school stuffed pet, to visit. He goes back to school tomorrow to go home with another kid. I think we showed him a good time. You might see him in some of the pictures. On Friday night, we took him to First Friday downtown, where there was decorating your own Easter cookies at the real estate place, bluegrass at the bank, and wine and bbq tastings behind the Pink Shop. On Saturday, Daphne had her first soccer game. About 30 seconds after the kids hit the field, it began to hail. Game Over. So, I got no pictures. We went out to lunch at the Red Kabob with G-Ma and G-Pa instead. Then, we celebrated a fake holiday called P Day, which Kev and I made up to keep Daphne on good behavior for the rest of the long long day. We made a Poster of P words, did a Puzzle, made Puppets, played with Clifford the Puppy, and had Pasta with Pesto and Pine Nuts for dinner.

The puppets were a Pirate, a Princess, and Daphne's Principal, Miss Linda. The Miss Linda puppet looked remarkably like her. Daphne's behavior was excellent. I love P Day!

On Sunday, I made Steel Cut Oatmeal again, and this time just added some blueberries and cranberries, brown sugar, and cinammon. So delicious. You should really try some. By the way, I make it with milk instead of water. I think it makes a pretty big difference. Yay oatmeal!

While I was cooking breakfast, Kev and Daphne made a satellite named Star Trek. It looks remarkably like a real satellite.

Next, we packed up Clifford and walked down to the Tally Ho to see Hop. It was pretty good. It was no Despicable Me, but I liked it just the same. Daphne loved it and drummed on things all the way home (the Easter Bunny in the movie wants to be a drummer).

After the movie, we went next door to La Lou for lunch. They were finished serving brunch, but made Daphne some chocolate chip pancakes anyway. We tried them, and they were GREAT. My mushroom ravioli and Kev's lentil stew with Italian sausage were also great. We love La Lou! Please go there so it doesn't close! I can't wait until the weather is nice enough to sit outside for Sunday brunch.. They have outdoor seating on the Town Green, where small children can run off their chocolate chip pancakes while their moms and dads leisurely finish their meals or drink coffee.

How much is that doggie in the window?

When we got home, Daphne wanted to pretend to be E.B. (the bunny from Hop). It was too loud for Clifford, I think.

And then came Monday. Daphne didn't have school because of teacher conferences or something, so we finally got around to making the pop tarts. I halved the recipe, and it made five small-ish poptarts. We filled them with Raspberry All-Fruit and a few chocolate chips. Daphne brushed the tops with milk and sprinkled on a little sugar. Voila:
Ingredients list: Flour, butter, egg, sugar, salt, milk, raspberry all-fruit, cornstarch, water, chocolate chips. Much better than all that stuff in the store-bought ones.

We ate them outside on the porch for dessert after dinner last night. It was so nice to eat on the porch. Except for the wind which kept threatening to blow our salads away. The poptarts were good, and I will make them again. When I was awake for a while in the middle of the night listening to the huge thunderstorm, I had all sorts of poptart filling ideas.

Today is April 5. It is Kevin's and my eighth anniversary. We will be celebrating in a few weeks with a weekend in DC. I cannot wait for that. But now, I am being asked to look for buried treasure and have adventures in the other room. What I really need is a nap. But naps can wait. Maybe I'll find a pot of gold.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Breakfast Blues

I can count on one hand the number of Pop Tarts I've had in my life. Maybe on one finger. We just didn't have them around when I was a kid, so I never really knew if I was missing something. I think I remember trying one once and thinking it wasn't all that great. Anyway, Daphne has recently seen PopTarts commercials, and wants one desperately. And since PopTarts are not part of a nutritious breakfast, I don't feel good about giving her one. That being said, I did look around at the Pop Tart section of the grocery store today, and if it was possible to purchase ONE Pop Tart, I might have considered getting her one. But, the smallest package had eight, and after reading the ingredients, I just couldn't do it. These things are filled with all kinds of bad:


So, now, I am the mean Mommy who won't let my kid eat a PopTart.

Ugh. It's so HARD. I mean, I don't want to be some kind of Food Nazi, but so much stuff out there is just filled with crap. It's depressing. And you cannot count on the TV ads or product packaging to steer you right. For example, I have been eating Special K for breakfast almost every day since the beginning of this year, and feeling pretty good about it. Before, I was eating Eggo Waffles and bagels and other "bad" stuff. So, this whole PopTart situation prompted me to look at the ingredients on the Special K box, and let's just say it ain't all it's cracked up to be. I would have never imagined that Special K had HFCS. It isn't the least bit sweet! But there it is in black and white on the side of the box. Dangit. Time to rethink my morning routine just a little bit. And I just bought a huge Family Size box!

Anyway, I have made a very conscious effort lately to serve myself and my family as much REAL FOOD and as little processed stuff as possible. I truly believe that so many health problems are related to the chemicals we constantly put into our bodies, whether from artificial or processed foods or cleaning products or perfumed and dyed products or whatever. But it's impossible to avoid it all completely. So where do you draw the line? I think maybe at Pop Tarts.

But I feel bad. So, after looking around the greatness that is the Internet, I found this recipe for homemade pop tarts. And sometime soon, maybe this weekend even, me and my kid will be making some. It may not be the most healthy thing we ever make, but at least we'll know what's in it, and be able to pronounce every ingredient. And in the meantime, I'll be searching for a new cereal.