Friday, January 30, 2009


Hate it. HATE IT when I don't have time to blog. When I don't have time to really do much of anything, but have to prioritize one thing over the other, like changing Matthew's sheets after he wet through his diaper last night, or say, putting some semblance of dinner on the table. So what happens to the blog? Nothing. It sits there, waiting for me to update it. And it never gets done. And I really hate that.

Considered quitting. Blogging, that is. But then I remembered why I started it in the first place, and that was, to keep a record for myself, a journal if you will of things I want to remember, places we've been, cute things the kids have done or said, meals or cool foods I have made or tried, and of course some photos here and there. I find myself going back to read my own posts from a year ago and find that I love reminiscing about this and that. So for now, I'll try to keep up with it. Sorry for the long breaks here and there - life is so busy these days!

And these days, I've been thinking about Jonathan's upcoming birthday in March - he's going to be 5 years old! 5! He's getting so big, so tall. And everyday I see changes in him and am simply amazed at how big and grown up he seems all the sudden. A few examples:

One night at dinner, I was trying to get Matthew to eat with his fork. He still prefers his fingers! But on that night, he was doing pretty well, and Jonathan took notice. "Look Mommy! Matthew's eating with utensils!" Utensils? What the heck is that? Is that a word a 4 year old should know? And a few nights later, I was working while the boys, all of them, were horsing around in the living room, playing chase and "Boo", etc... All the sudden, I hear a bloodcurdling scream from Jonathan who had just been startled out of his wits by his daddy coming around the corner....and Jonathan exclaims "Daddy, you startled me! I'm flabbergasted!" Ummm, Jonathan, are you like going to school in the London countryside? What is with you?

And then the other day, I'm on the phone with my mom. Jonathan was in and out of the room, seemingly engrossed in playing with his cars. At one point, mom and I were discussing someone who had passed away, at least, I thought that's who we were discussing. Anyway, when it was fairly clear that mom and I were talking about two different people, I tried to clear it up and say to her "Are we talking about so-and-so? I thought she D-I-E-D?" - spelling out the word I didn't feel like explaining at the moment, even though I wasn't even sure at that point Jonathan was even listening. Immediately, the kid looks up from his cars and says to me "Mommy are you trying to say "Died"? I'm like - "I sure am, buddy, do you know what that means?" He told me yes, he knew what it meant, it meant that you don't grow anymore. Well, I guess there's a little more to it than that, but for now, that explanation was good enough for me.

Jonathan, you're ahead of yourself in years, son. Can you slow down a bit and wait for Mommy to catch up?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Trip to Pittsburgh

Last year, we went to Pittsburgh for an overnight...for the second time since we've lived here. After that trip, we decided that Pittsburgh was a long day trip. No sense spending the extra money for a hotel room, right? It's really only a little over two hours away.

This past weekend, we made our third trip to Pittsburgh....and stayed overnight not one, but two nights. Why, you ask? Why would we do this? Well, Pittsburgh has IKEA, which we don't get to go to often and we're mulling over some future purchases. And also, there's some cool museums and neat things for kids - and since we hardly ever go places exclusively for the kiddos, we decided wouldn't it be nice to take a day and do something just for them.

So Friday afternoon found us all packed up - kids, dog and us, on our way to the Steel City. No matter it was only 2 degrees. No matter the Pittsburgh-Ravens game was on Sunday, and I fully intended to wear my Ray Lewis jersey, even though I was anticipating being killed by Steelers fans. No matter we had to pay an extra $100 to let the dog stay at the hotel when she only weighs 13 pounds and doesn't shed and is hypoallergenic. If I were the hotel management, I would charge a "toddler-cleaning fee" rather than a "pet-cleaning fee" because certainly, those two little guys of mine were going to make more of a mess in the room than Bella would. But I'll try to keep my thoughts about hotel management and non-refundable pet-deposits to myself -- at least for THIS blog entry.

At any rate - it was a good weekend. The hotel was nice and quiet and had a fab breakfast both mornings (thanks, Marriott!). We did get to IKEA and got some ideas and some little things we picked up along the way - and probably would've gotten a lot more had the boys not been in total meltdown mode. And the museum? Awesome. The kids were in hog heaven. It was the Carnegie Science Museum and truly, it is mostly geared toward kids. They have all this cool stuff you can do - like sit in a what looks like a restaurant booth and press buttons and all these different types and magnitudes of earthquakes are simulated. Scary. But fun! And the shadow wall - you press a button, then pose in front of this wall and it flashes a light, and when you step away, your shadow is left on the wall. My, we had fun with this one! But one of the best displays was the train village - wow. It was huge and it was spectacular - I think Matthew would've stayed there all day just watching all there was to see. It was definitely the best train exhibit I've ever seen. And yes, we managed to spend a few hours in the 3-6 year old area - where literally, a kid could just be a kid. They had it all - huge water table with waterfalls and channels and ping pong balls and sieves. And the ball factory - geesh, we couldn't get Jonathan to leave!

It was great to just be able to watch the kids do their thing, not have any kind of time limit - we really, really need to do more of that kind of stuff! After all, we're always dragging them around to our stuff, which mostly consists of grocery shopping and trips to Lowe's to get something else to fix something wrong in the house....

Speaking of which!! As if it wasn't bad enough that on one night we were there, Pittsburgh got down to some ridiculous temperature, something below zero, and they reported on the news it was the coldest night Pittsburgh had seen in 15 years. Then our drive home took twice as long as it should have thanks to a few wrong turns and snow where it shouldn't have been. But we came home to a house that was 47 degrees!!! We're still unsure what happened - either it was so cold the oil got sluggish in the lines, or the programmable thermostat really malfunctioned, but that was not pleasant. And to top it off, my beloved Ravens lost to Pittsburgh - but hey, at least it was a good game. And I did wear my Ray Lewis jersey and lived to tell about it!

So there was our weekend - been playing catch-up since we got home - not sure where time goes these days!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Latest Dish - Shrimp w/ Cabbage

Wish I had a picture, because this one turned out really, really good! I had half a head of cabbage leftover from veggie soup last week, trying to figure out something else besides cole slaw, which, just doesn't fit in January, if you ask me. So I started thinking...what would a Thai chef do? Why did I think this? Well, remember from the holidays when Mark and I got the opportunity to visit Lemongrass? Well, since then we decided to somehow try more Thai food, and happily, we found Banana Leaf - a Thai/Asian place just a mile or two from our house....gee, why had we never seen that before? We tried carry-out for the first time just a few nights ago! Yum.

ANYWAY. Shrimp in the freezer. Thawed, peeled and sprinkled with some ginger and soy sauce. Cabbage sliced thinly, sauteed with a little oil and garlic and salt and pepper. Take out the cabbage, stir-fry the shrimp, added a little water from cooking some rice noodles, and at the last minute, threw in a heaping tablespoon of all natural chunky peanut butter just for fun.
Tossed back in the cabbage and then tossed with the noodles. Wow. So easy. So low-fat!

So NOT a crowd-pleaser...well, Mark and I loved it. The kids ate their usual....dry cereal and some sort of noodles with butter. Ho hum. Maybe one day they'll try what we eat.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

More New-ness...This Time, Tea

We're coffee people. Have been for awhile. Not a morning goes by without a big pot being brewed, sometimes 2 or 3 pots on the weekend. Pretty much every road trip either begins or includes a stop for a cup-to-go. Tea? Well, iced tea, sure. And a box of some herbal teas hiding out in the back of the kitchen cupboard in case someone got sick and needed something soothing.

But things are changing, and wow. Teas are a whole new way to enjoy life! It started with my in-laws, visiting in the fall. I asked if they needed any particular foods on hand that they liked...well, they said, FIL likes to drink a cup of tea... So off I puttered to the grocery and picked out a box of Celestial assorted box of mixed fruit teas. Although FIL only drank a few cups of it during his visit, Mark and I made quick work of the leftovers. During the late fall and weeks leading up to Christmas, I would come in after a late night music practice, actually looking forward to a nice hot cup of tea to warm me up. Mark would join me, and we started to wonder aloud what the world of tea had to offer besides Celestial Seasonings. Not that it was bad, but we knew there had to be something else out there.

So I hit the gourmet section of the grocery, and Mark hit downtown Cumberland. What a liquid feast awaited us! Starting with the grocer, I discovered a ton of possibilities. Mostly tea in bags, all sorts of brands and flavors, caffeinated, decaffeinated, fruity ones, spicy ones, zingy ones, earthy ones. The organic aisles brought even more possibilities. I was literally overwhelmed. Why had I not noticed this before? After all, the tea aisle is also the coffee aisle....was I that blinded? Oh wait...we hadn't been buying our coffee at the grocery much anymore....we had moved onto the mail-order, organic, fair trade stuff....but I digress....

Back to tea. Mark visited the tea shop in Cumberland...didn't even really know we had one, but alas, we do! This was a new animal...loose teas. Having no idea the difference between a rooibus and a chai, he left empty-handed, but not empty-minded. We settled for a tin of Gypsy Fireside Chai from the organic grocery aisle and decided to do a little asking around, a little research.

Then came Thanksgiving. On Black Friday, we found ourselves in Columbia Mall in Howard County where we stumbled upon a store called Teavana. Oh my. First, we hovered around the free samples at the front of the store, tasting and oohing and ahhing. Then we ventured to the back, where loose tea in tins awaited us....tons of them. We knew not where to begin, but decided to start small and familiar, so we selected 2 oz. of Caribbean Breeze, one of their herbal infusions. It is described in their catalog as "A torrid melange of strawberry and raspberry pieces, elderberries, apple bits, kiwi and passion fruit pieces, citrus peels, rosehips and hibiscus, rose petals and blue mallow flowers." Hmmmmm. Somewhere along the way, we picked up some tea strainers, and we were in business.

Caribbean Breeze turned out to be pretty good. Very, very fruity, and once we got the proportions of water to tea to steep time correct, it's very good. Like Celestial Seasonings on steroids...very, very flavorful and deep. The Gypsy Fireside Chai was also very good - although in bags so easier to deal with, and readily available at our local grocery, along with about 12 other flavors, just ready to be sipped.

Since then, we've moved on. My cabinet now includes the last of the Caribbean Breeze, and it has been joined by Caramel Rooibus from the Cumberland store (part of my Christmas present from Mark!), a Matevana Rooibus Chai from Teavana when we were again visiting after Christmas, and a Rooibus White Chocolate Toffee...some leftovers a girlfriend gave me when she discovered that we had discovered tea...a sample she got from somewhere and she didn't much care for. Haven't tried that one yet! It sounds a little on the adventuresome side for me!

And it feels like we've only just begun, between white tea, black tea, green tea, rooibus (red) tea, oolong, mate's, herbals and infusions, 'twould seem our tea-drinking days have only just started!

And the best part? No calories in most of it!! Mark likes his with a little honey, I usually have mine with some herbal sweetener, so we can indulge all we like without messing with the old waistlines. Plus, tea has a lot of antioxidents and other ingredients that are health-beneficial. Bottoms up!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Another Year, New Foods

With the new year, I made a (sort of) resolution. Try some new things, foodwise. New recipes, new ingredients, new ways to cut costs, cut fat, cut preservatives. I even got Jonathan involved - I told him as his resolution, he should try something new every week. His take on this isn't quite what I had in mind - he told me that eating bow-tie shaped pasta was trying something new. Well, okay. The one shape of pasta he'd never tried before. Sigh. But it's a start. Last night he tried my homemade veggie soup, but only a little broth, and then he stopped because there were "too many things floating in it." That would've been basil and thyme. Heavy sigh. One day at the time!
But for me and Mark, there will be some new stuff, starting with my brand-new sourdough starter! Well, brand-new is kind of a misnomer. This strain of sourdough is actually almost 250 years old! My friend ordered the starter, then split it out and gave me some - and that's her cute little crock in the first pic. You keep it in the crock in the fridge, and every week or so you feed it and it's always ready to be made into breads, waffles, whatever. She just gave it to me the week before Christmas, and so far, I made regular sourdough which we ate for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and yesterday, I made a half whole wheat/half regular sourdough which we ate with our soup last night. Yum. The second pic is one of the loaves from yesterday, which will be part of our dinner tonight! It's fascinating. I've read stories about women of yore who nursed their little sourdough starter through wars, moves, harsh winters....and they made bread for their families everyday. No, they didn't have the cool dough hook attachment on their electric mixer to knead the stuff..ahem...but still. It feels colonial!
If anyone's interested, try the King Arthur Bread Company website. They sell the starter as well as the crocks and have a bunch of recipes to get started. If you live in LaVale, I'll be happy to pass along some of my starter! Actually, I'd be delighted --- makes me feel like a frontier woman!
Next up....quinoa. I've been reading about this super-protein for a few weeks now and I'm ready to give it a try. Got a few recipes in mind.
So while not actually a resolution, more like....a continuation of the way I want to live that kind of started last summer. Eating lower on the food chain - cutting out the middle man as much as possible. Buying local and organic. Getting the kids interested in better choices. Although I don't serve packaged foods as rule here at home, the kids still haven't grasped the concept, so we'll try to work on that!
Meanwhile, I'm off to order my own sourdough crock!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Recap - The Holidays In Review

Can you say whirlwind? Let's do this in bullet form, because if I didn't, I'd probably be here all night.

1 house, completely cleaned. Sheets washed, curtains washed, ironed, rehung, all woodwork scrubbed down, windows sparkling...making way for:

5 houseguests, starting Dec. 23rd and lasting until Dec. 27th, who ate:

about a dozen varieties of homemade cookies, candy and cakes, in addition to:

one huge pan of homemade lasagna, and a crockpot full of chicken parmigiana.

Two little boys, delighted that a combination of Santa and both sets of grandparents brought:

gifts too numerous to count, but included a toy piano for Matthew, a hot wheels racing set for Jonathan, lots of new clothes and books, art supplies, toy cars, and a brand-new Thomas and Friends wooden railway set and train table and the list could go on and on....

At least 4 bottles of wine opened and consumed, making for some very happy adults, as well as...

our new passion - tea! Hot tea, loose tea, tea strainers, rooibus, chai, wow, what fun!! Last year it was cappuccino, this year, tea.

Great weather all around - some cold days, but not too bad. A little icy on Christmas Eve, but it didn't stop me from:

playing my flute and singing with two choirs at two different churches, one at 4pm, one at 10pm. Loved it - also played two other concerts, one on Dec. 14th, the other on Dec. 28th, with two other groups. Totally trying to immerse myself more in Cumberland's music scene, hoping the greater exposure brings me...well, greater exposure!

One trip to the Baltimore area where we stayed for 4 nights, one of those nights partying with:

old friends from where we used to live! What great fun - Happy Hour at the old watering hole, followed by:

a fabulous Thai meal at a cool, hip, Annapolis place called Lemongrass. If you're a local and you like Thai, give it a try - especially the crispy green bean appetizer! And all of this:

without the kids! (Thanks Grandma and Poppy!)

And now? Let's see, one head cold (me), one stomach virus (my mom), more clutter around the house (thank you, Santa) and something new, as of tonight.....

one little boy named Matthew, sound asleep in his big boy bed, instead of his crib! We came home from Grandma's, pulled apart the crib, stashed it in the closet, put up the guardrails we'd bought months ago, and took him into his newly designed room. He looked around, and said "Where is it?" We told him, "It (the crib) went bye-bye, and now you sleep in the big-boy bed." We laid him down, turned out the light and voila.

And keeping our fingers crossed for the rest of the night!

Oh, and before I forget...New Year's Resolutions? Return to eating like we did from July until about the first week in December, when everything went to pot, I started Christmas baking and recall that huge pan of lasagna. Back to the healthy habits, starting tomorrow. And this year? Even more organic, more healthy, more self-sufficient. Hey, maybe we can plant a larger garden this spring, if we could just figure out how to bear-proof it.

And more time with the kids. Since school started, it seems like I've had less and less time - of course it's the busiest time of year, but now that we're heading into the slowest time of year, at least for us, it's time to really start setting aside more time for the boys, nurturing them, playing more with them, taking them cool places. Family is our most valuable asset, and we're so lucky to be so blessed.

So with that in mind, off to do some chores so I won't have to do them in the morning when my little guys are up and around.

Happy 2009 - I wish all peace and happiness!