Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Toddlers: masters of manipulation

"No, no Mama!  Hurting me!!!"

My son has a new catch phrase.  Its delivery is accompanied by a truly devastating hound-dog expression in his enormous brown eyes.  He says it with a perfect mix of pitiful sadness and shocked injustice.  He tosses out this ultimate reprimand whenever I infringe on his rights and freedoms, like daring to change his diaper, dress him, wipe his face after mealtime, or strap him into the carseat.  "No, no Mama!  Hurting me!"  I suppose in his perfect world he would just roam the planet, naked and free, without a mommy to cramp his style.  That is, until he is tired, or hungry, or in actual pain.  Then it's all "Hold you, peeease???"  And I cave, because he's just soooo precious.  See what I mean?  Baby: 1,025,384.  Mommy: 0.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

You're probably a mommy if...

...there are always at least two shiny, freshly polished pebbles in your dryer.

...staying in bed until 7 is "sleeping in." find a plastic goldfish in your stock pot and don't even bat an eye. agonize with guilt over every unnecessary personal purchase, but you will happily drop $$$ every time The Children's Place sends you a coupon.

...your last "date" involved another exhausted mommy and twice the kids. regularly rummage through the dirty clothes hamper, the platic-ware cabinet, and your childrens' toy chests for your phone. often refer to yourself in the third person.

And finally... think your baby's low rida' diaper is the cutest thing ever.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Turkey, turkey, turkey...

A few weeks ago turkeys were on sale at my local grocery store and for some reason, I bought one. Even though I tried to buy the smallest one available, I still ended with a big ol' bird for one little family! So, here is my three days of turkey, just in case you are a sucker for a sale like me.

Turkey Brine:
6 Cups water
1 Cup sea salt
1/4 Cup brown sugar
Small handful of peppercorns
1-2 bay leaves
1/2 lemon

Bring water to a boil in large stockpot and add remaining ingredients.  Cook a few minutes until salt and sugar has absorbed.  Cool completely with ice or very cold water.  Drop turkey in (you can use an ice chest if turkey is very large), and brine for at least 6 hours or overnight.  Rinse brined turkey and pat dry.

For turkey:
Preheat oven to 350
In a small bowl, mix 3-4 T butter, a few minced cloves of garlic, pepper, herbs de provence, and additional fresh minced rosemary and parsley (use the Italian kind).  Gently tug up skin around bird and tuck smears of butter under skin (yes, it's messy...get over it).  Rub remaining butter mix and extra pepper over bird.  Shove some aromatics up the bird's cavity (I like to say a little apology first).  I typically use a cinnamon stick, 1/2 an apple, and 1/2 an onion but you can also use lemon, fresh thyme, bay leaves, anything that will add yummy flavor and aroma.  Roast turkey at 350 for 30 minutes, then knock back temp to 325 and roast an additional 3-4 hours for a small bird (8-10 pounds). Take out of oven, check for doneness, and let rest 30 minutes before carving. 
I served this with good old Stovetop Stuffing and a green salad.
Turkey sandwiches!  Done!!!
Turkey Noodle Soup:
Drop what's left of the bird back into stock pot and cover with water.  Bring to low simmer and cook several hours with more bay, peppercorns, herbs, lemon, and sea salt.  If you have time, cool completely as this makes skimming fat easier.  Strain stock back into pot.  Pick remaining meat off of turkey and add to stock (also messy and something I swore I would never do...sigh).  Add your choice of veggies.  Carrots, celery, and onion would be traditional but I don't dig the celery.  I like carrot, sliced mushrooms, green onions, and a bit more garlic, all sauteed for extra color and flavor.  Add to soup and simmer with extra herbs de provence, pepper, and a rind of parm. cheese if you've got one.  Cook for about an hour, then add 1/2 bag of egg noodles and cook until noodles are desired tenderness. 
Yes, it's a process, but most of it is just occasionally babysitting something on the stove or in the oven.  And, you've got at least three days of food.  Granted, you might never want to see a turkey again, but it's tasty while you've got it! 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Book Clubs, precious mommy time disguised as something scholarly!

Today was the perfect day to wrap my hands around a warm cup of hazelnut coffee and spend some quality time with a couple of girlfriends. And I don't even have to feel bad about abandoning my husband with a pile of homework and two kids 'cuz, hey, it's BOOK CLUB! Clearly that is something important, intellectual, necessary almost. Really, we do almost always discuss the book for at least 10 or 15 minutes of the nearly 2 hours we spend sipping coffee and chatting.

Kidding aside, it is so important to take time occasionally and just sit with friends and discuss all of the large and small troubles and triumphs of life. And a book does provide a great sounding board for some great conversation. So, maybe you don't line-by-line discuss the book, but it's still there as a catalyst for conversation. Unless you spend the two hours discussing shoe shopping and toddler tantrums, and if that's the case, rock on sister! Everyone needs that from time to time too. In this hectic life we lead, something as simple as a quiet afternoon with people who make you happy and somewhat understand you can be a great recharger. Especially when Monday morning is barreling at you with the speed of an angry freight train. For your reading pleasure, here is a list of some (in my opinion) great books for mom discussions:

Anything by Sarah Addison Allen (just for fun)
Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner
The Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I'd Trade My Husband for a Housekeeper by Trisha Ainsworth and Amy Nobile Bad Mommy by Ayelet Waldman (or really, any of her books)

There are lots of wonderful books out there for great discussions, and my group tends to read a pretty diverse mix of classic and modern, "mom" books and otherwise. But, in keeping with the purpose of this blog, I just thought I'd toss out a few particularly mom-centric ideas. Except for Sarah Addison Allen, she really has nothing to do with moms, I just can't seem to have a discussion about good books to read and not gush about her. Truly, half of the citizens of the small town where I pretend to be a librarian have had her books thrust into their hands by myself or my also-Allen-obsessed coworker who shall remain unnamed because she neglected to inform me about the upcoming release of Allen's latest book so that she could get ahead of me on the hold list, but I'm right there behind you Shannon! Pant, pant, pant. Sorry, betcha didn't know librarians were so competitive! Soooo, anyway.  Book club, it's good for the soul.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Greek Fish Dinner, and my kids actually ate it!

This was tasty, cheap, healthy, and my kids each ate a decent amount of it! Picky baby didn't dig the veggies in the rice, but he did chew them thoroughly before spitting out so I'm figuring he got at least some nutrition (don't correct me if I'm wrong on this). For fish: 2-4 filets tilapia 1 medium shallot, minced 2 T olive oil Juice of 1/2 a lemon Dried oregano and paprika (a couple of shakes of each) Sea salt and coarse ground pepper Pat fish dry and place in glass baking dish. Mix all other ingredients and smear on fish. Bake at 400 for 18-20 minutes. For salad: 1/2 cucumber, chopped 1 ripe tomato, chopped Handful Italian parsley, chopped 1 can artichoke hearts, chopped (I get quartered because I think you get more for your money...again, don't correct me if I'm wrong!) 1/2 block of feta cheese, cubed (should be about 4oz.) Juice of 1/2 lemon 2T olive oil Black pepper 1 cup cooked brown rice (you could also use couscous or lentils) Mix all ingredients thoroughly and your salad is done, couldn't be simpler! You could also add a can of chickpeas for extra protein and serve as an entree. Plus, leftovers just get better the longer the flavors "marry."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Just One of Those Days...

My daughter has discovered a freckle on her middle finger and really, really likes to show it off. My son has developed an inexplicable fondness for the word "breast" and shouts it out whenever possible. My daughter now insists on dressing herself. Sometimes it works, sometimes not so much. My son's socks are all in a permanent state of separation. Every morning I open the drawer and find 7+ separate socks. I don't fight it anymore; he's just mis-matched most of the time. None of these things are huge deals, but sometimes they all seem to crash at once (particularly on a windy, head -achy Monday) and I am nearly knocked over by how complicated, messy, exhausting, and downright embarrassing motherhood can be at times. It's like every issue or fault is toddling in your wake. Of course, they can also be wonderful examples of your intelligence, your accomplishments, and your responsibility. It just doesn't feel like it on a windy, head-achy Monday I guess! Hey kids, you wanna watch a movie???

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Oh my, oh mama!

Today I have fallen down the rabbit hole of mom blogs. Turns out there are a lot, like a LOT, like a really, really LOT. Most are pretty good, and they are ALL different from one another...this is probably the part that I find most fascinating. I have even stumbled upon many, many blogs written by women whom I have not seen since those awkward, confusing adolescent years. What do you know, they (just like me) have turned into mostly responsible, mostly productive grown-ups. Either that or they (just like me) are doing a darn good job faking it! What occurs to me is this...moms have a lot to say. And people are listening. And we are making changes. As a librarian, nearly ever other new non-fiction title that I see is written by a mom-blogger. I sometimes feel like I'm hiding my aspirations as a "real" writer. Or just wasting my time sending my boring thoughts into the abyss. But maybe not. Maybe, just maybe, I am on the right path after all, bwahahahah!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Cockroaches, butterflys, dragonflys, oh my!

Bug Fest at the Norman Public Library! Holy six-legged, chaotic fun!!! My daughter made a butterfly from a coffee filter, a "book worm" bookmark, an abstract maggot painting (don't ask), got her face painted, and petted the most gigantic bug I've ever seen. My son squirmed, tried to escape, ate a fried meal worm (how's that for a double entendre), and tried to escape some more. I've decided he's at a very inconvenient age: too big to hang happily in a stroller or carrier, too small and wild to really be let loose. Nonetheless, it was such an amazing and fun event. We followed it up with our delayed park picnic play date. My kids' favorite park is conveniently right next to a very busy train track, so it is noisy double-fun. So happy for a day of fun, free, nap-inducing activities ('cuz you know I like someplace to go)!

Sometimes, you've just gotta roll with it!

I have had the best of intentions to do lots of wonderful and outdoorsy things this week. Instead it seems that there has been lots of fighting, lots of yelling (ironic since this is what I "gave up" for Lent) and lots of my son running around with big wads of his sister's hair. It seems my beautiful baby has a slightly sinister side. Yesterday, I planned a picnic lunch and play date at our favorite park. Instead, the morning started bad and went down from there. By 10:45 my patience was gone. Instead of our great park day, I robotically fed the kids their sandwiches and fruit, and plopped them in their beds by 11am. Nearly in tears with frustration, I self-soothed with great quantities of hummus, carbs, and DVR'd Rachael Ray. And, what do you know, they both took really, really long naps! After we were all rested and calmed, we did manage to salvage the day just roaming our own neighborhood. We played at the playground, inspected the daffodils in the greenbelt, visited the turtles in the pond, and basically had a free-range day. The lesson I (hopefully) learned is that sometimes I over schedule our day, as if I am frightened of the prospect of a whole day at home with the kids. Turns out, sometimes an unscheduled day is okay. Maybe that's what the little monsters were trying to tell me yesterday morning!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Perfect Pizza Sauce

1 T extra-virgin olive oil 1 medium shallot, minced 1 large garlic clove, minced 1 small can no salt added tomato sauce Coarse ground black pepper Dried oregano Handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped Preheat oil in small saucepan and add shallot. Cook on medium heat until semi-tender. Add garlic, reduce heat to medium-low (you do NOT want to burn the garlic). Cook for a couple of minutes, then add tomato sauce and seasonings, except parsley. Turn heat to low, stir, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, add parsley, smear on pizza crust with your favorite toppings and say yum yum! This sauce can be easily converted to enchilada sauce. Use 1/2 medium onion instead of shallot, double the amount of tomato sauce, and add 1t cumin and a pinch of cinnamon. Viola, two sauces in one!!! Pizza is a great way to sneak veggies into food your kids are almost guaranteed to eat. Here are my favorite kid-friendly, healthy pizza toppings: Turkey pepperoni, sliced fresh mushrooms, halved cherry or grape tomatoes, and a few fresh spinach leaves (hide them under the cheese if you must). As for cheese, grate you own if possible. It is literally 1/4 the prize of the shredded stuff, and the shredded cheese always seems to have some sort of suspicious coating on it. Yes, I am aware of my own food paranoia, but it's not an issue that I feel like tackling at this point in my life! Pizza pizza!

Monday, March 14, 2011

A nice, steamy pot of soup

Potato and Chorizo Soup 1 8oz stick of Spanish-style chorizo, chopped 1 lb red skinned potatoes, cubed 1 cup carrots, sliced 1 medium onion or 2 leeks, chopped 1 large or 2 medium cloves garlic, chopped 1/2 cup spicy red wine, such as zinfandel or shiraz 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes 1 box unsalted chicken stock 1 rind parmaggiano reggiano 1 bay leaf cracked pepper Extra grated parm and chopped parsley for topping In deep soup pot or dutch oven, brown chorizo in 1 T olive oil until it is crispy and some of the fat has rendered off. Drain meat in a bowl lined with paper towels. Discard all but a thin layer of oil in pan and add veggies. Cook veggies several minutes or until they form some color. Deglaze pan with wine, scraping up bits from bottom of the pot. Add everything else, stir, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 1-1 1/2 hours or until veggies are tender. Remove parm rind and bay leaf. Top individual bowls with extra cheese and parsley and serve with crusty bread. *Buy meat labeled Spanish or Italian chorizo in the deli or cured meats area. I should be a fully cooked product similar to salami or pepperoni. Mexican chorizo is raw, grey, and would be with the other raw meats. I'm sure it's wonderful, but it sort of frightens me and seems to have permanently scarred my sister when I was less clear to her about the ingredients!

Dinosaur ROAR!!! Wait, that was just my screaming toddler!

Well, Spring Break begins in Oklahoma with a sigh, weather-wise anyway. Luckily for us, we had my awesome sis and her kids to keep us entertained! With the zoo seeming like a chilly prospect, we headed to the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History or, as my daughter says, the "Dinoraurn Museum." It's pretty much our second home. Living in a college town means that we have access to big-city quality arts, culture and activities. Truly, it is the best of both worlds and a goldmine of fun and cheap kids' entertainment.
It would have been a wonderful day if I didn't have to spend most of the time chasing a wild, fearless, mommy-hitting toddler. There are times when I truly can see why people resort to the leashes. But, I digress. Natural history museums...find one near you!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Provencal Style Meatloaf..dressin' up a classic!

1-1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef 1 egg beaten 1 cup unseasoned bread crumbs or oatmeal (gives you some more fiber and whole grains) 8 oz fresh button or crimini mushrooms, chopped 1 or 2 shallots, minced 1 T Herbs de Provence (use this stuff in nearly everything!) 1 t grill seasoning, or coarse salt and pepper Pinch of cumin A couple of dashes Worcestershire sauce 1/2 T olive oil Mix all ingredients together and form into 4 large oval-shaped mini loaves (learned this tip from my hero Rachael Ray) Lightly rub with olive oil and roast and roast in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until cooked through. You can make into a whole loaf if you prefer, just add 20-30 minutes to cooking time.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Get Outa Town, Mommy!

Today I escaped! Teamed up with several other over-worked mommies and we headed to the wilderness (sort of). We drove, chatted, laughed, ate, hiked, wondered if we were lost, hiked some more, laughed, ate, chatted, drove, laughed, and went back to our real lives. And good grief, I forget how simple it is when you've just got yourself to look after...I even left the giant mom bag at home! What a fun and much needed adventure and a chance to reconnect with the person I used to be. Granted, there was a LOT of kid talk (we are moms after all). Still, just to get out with grown ups and do something really fun and new was a recharge for this frazzled mom. Plus, it had to have been good for my mommy-squishy belly. That is, until the various fried things hit the table at our lunch stop. So what if I came home to a feverish and crying child and a pile of laundry? It was worth it to do something fun for just myself. So moms, get together some friends and schedule yourself an adventure. If you're like me, that doesn't occur to you nearly enough.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Stay, Mommy, Stay!

It's a gorgeous day, sun is shining and you can just feel Spring's long-awaited arrival. It's the perfect day for some playground and zoo time. Which is precisely what I had in mind, until my daughter decided to get sick. Dang inconvenient kids, she can't feel under the weather when the temperature is sub-zero! Apparently sometimes you've just got to roll with it. So, instead we spent the day watching movies, playing trucks, and building block towers. And holding a very sweaty, very clingy preschooler while my poor baby boy desperately tried to shove his sister off of Mommy's lap while shouting "No, MY mommy, peeeease!" I did herd the poor child into the backyard while I spread about 30 bags of mulch and pulled weeds, two things I am constantly behind on. Hey, fresh air is good for you right? By 6 pm we were all worn out and sick to death of each other, so both kids went to bed early and Mommy is thinking a nice glass of vino is the perfect "medicine" for me!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mall play

Truly, a most excellent idea when you're out of other options on a still-Winter morning. There are a few tips though, which I think can make the difference between good times in the world of commerce and a super-sized nightmare:
1) Go with a buddy. Trust me, some of the kids (and moms) at the mall are straight from Wal-Mart and you will need an ally to herd kids, confront bullies, and provide you a little friend time as well. Plus, if you're like me, you'll have at least one "zone out" moment and if the friend is good, she just might save your kiddos from disaster while you are contemplating wedges or pumps...or the meaning of life or something.
2) Do NOT bring snacks. Repeat DO NOT. Your kids won't play, they will just treat it as a buffet and every other kid in the place will want one too. Pretty soon, you will feel like you are feeding a herd of pigeons.
3) Sit near the entrance. Kids try to escape and it's better to be closer to the opening of the "pen." Not only can you better catch your own kids, but others as well, earning you appreciation and admiration from the masses, something every mommy craves and deserves!
4) Bring extra wipes and do not let those kids take off their socks 'cuz...eeeewwww! Seriously, I have seen a kid (thankfully not my own) pick a random booger off of the ground and put it into his mouth. I apologize, but you need to know the dirty truth. Don't avoid the place because of the germ factor, but be aware, very aware.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Slow Cooked Chicken Noodle Soup (aka The Only Soup My Daughter Will Eat)

I used to buy a whole chicken, roast it, pick it, then boil the bones with herbs and veggies, to make my own stock. It was a 24 hour + job. Then, I got smart and cut out a couple of steps and several hours. I start with a very small (1-1 1/2 pounds) free-range, local chicken. I remove the skin and yucky fatty bits (this makes me feel better about being to lazy to skim the fat after the fact). Of course, it changes a bit every time but here's the basic story. 1 small free range, local chicken 2-3 T olive oil Salt, pepper, herbs de provence to taste 1 large onion chopped 2-3 cloves garlic, minced, 3-4 medium carrots, diced 1 bay leaf 1/2 lemon 1 can petite diced tomatoes 6 cups water 1/2 Cup frozen corn Minced fresh parsley 6-8 ounces alphabet (or other small) noodles, cooked separately Rinse chicken and pat dry. Remove as much of the skin and fat as possible. Preheat large cast-iron our enamel oven-safe soup/casserole pot with olive oil. Season chicken liberally and sear in very hot pot, turning once until chicken has a nice crust on it. Add all other ingredients except corn and parsley. Cover and cook on medium low on stove top or at 250 in oven for 2-3 hours, until chicken is falling off the bone. Remove chicken, bay leaf and lemon. Pick meat off of chicken and return to pot with corn. Cook a few more minutes until soup is heated through. Stir in noodles individually into bowls and top with parsley. Yummy yum, homemade soup with fresh stock in a fraction of the time!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

For the girls...

Our local library hosts a "Crowns Tea" every year as part of its Black History Month programming. This is a beautiful girls-only event featuring women of all sizes, shapes and colors wearing their "Sunday best" and the most elaborate hats ever seen. I have taken my daughter since she was six months old and am always amazed by the music, the food, and of course, the hats. Oh my, the hats, hats, hats, hats! What an amazing site, truly breathtaking to see.
Now I know that not every library has an amazing (and did I mention free) program like this, but a good many of them do something of the sort. Fancy Nancy or American Girl tea parties are pretty popular and common. Call your local library and ask about tea parties! Or, take a trip to the local tea house and be sure to dress in high style. Not only is this just a fun outing, but it lays the foundation for table etiquette and the importance of dressing up for special occasions, like church or a holiday dinner. Just because we don't live in a world where people "dress for dinner" anymore doesn't mean that there are not important lessons to be learned from those simple values: dressing up shows reverence for the occasion, sitting quietly and listing to a program or speaker is an important life skill, saying please and thank you and eating politely will always be an important way of showing respect for the host and yourself. All of these things can be learned the fun way at a proper tea party. So, gather up your girls and your best frocks, and get thee to a tea! Oh, and when you get home, put on her rain boots and play clothes and go in the back yard for a whole different kind of fun. I mean, you want a polite kid, not a mannequin!

Friday, March 4, 2011

When in doubt, go to Grammie's house!

Yesterday I was faced with a long day of nothing, and a possibly bum tire. Something in me said "Go East grasshopper, East to the motherland" ...MY mother's land that is. So, in about five minutes, kids were loaded with snacks and sippies, clothes were thrown into bags, and we set out for the 2 hour journey to my parents' house and the only tire place my father really wants me to go to. At the age of 32, taking a healthy interest in my car is my dad's "fatherly" duty that he is not about to wholy relinquish to any son-in-law. Ah, the bliss of my mother's home: it is small, it is crowded with bric a brac (or knicknacks for you non-Okies), and it has about 150lbs of dogs living in it. Still, it is my home and I feel instantly relaxed there (as in the kind of relaxed that coma patients experience). And as a bonus, my children LOVE it. Why wouldn't they, they get juice that hasn't been watered down, Horton Hears a Who is on a non-stop track, and my mom lets them play with all of her previously mentioned heirlooms and decorative nonesense. And if they get bored, my father has a garage and shop full of tetnus-inducing preschooler fun! So, that's my advice for the day...if you get to the point where you just can't take it anymore, load up those little monsters and head for a sleepover at the nearest semi-sane relative. Just getting out of town for even a little bit is always a fun new adventure for the kids, hopefully a much needed break for mom, and probably a pleasant surprise for dad too (much as he should deny it).