9.30.2009

Photo of the Day

As I recently mentioned to a friend, I believe hoodies are the essential piece of a kid's wardrobe.
Both of my boys certainly get good use out of theirs.

9.29.2009

How Awesome is my Baby Niece?

How awesome are these pictures of my niece? What a little model she is already, without even trying! Love the bathing suit, the pose, the smile...everything! Man it sucks that I haven't even met her yet. Can't wait for the holidays!



Online Cooking Club - Week 2

*Image from Cooking Light
For week two of the online cooking group, I chose to make two new recipes. My first recipe was from Cooking Light, which you'll notice is a favorite of mine. It was a Creole Shrimp and Sausage Stew. The results? Pretty good, but not great. Probably won't become a regular. On the positive side, Aaron did well with it, eating everything except the peppers. It's also extremely fast and easy to make, so it is a great weeknight meal. I served with a multigrain crusty bread that was yummy to dip in the stew. On the negative side, I'd say it's just a bit bland. Perhaps a little extra spice would help kick it up a notch or help make it a bit more memorable.

My second recipe was from a cookbook I received as a gift - Healthy Cooking for your Kids. It was called Creamy Pasta Bake, and I chose it primarily because I was looking for a way to use the leftovers from Sunday's roast chicken.

The results? Pretty good. Aaron liked it - even the broccoli and mushrooms - so in that regards, it was a success. And it could easily be made vegetarian by simply omitting the chicken. We did use the whole wheat pasta - I'm becoming much more successful at doing that. I will probably make this again, but the only reason it won't make the regular rotation is because it is a little higher maintenance than my other standards. It made a lot of dirty dishes.

Sorry I neglected to take a photo, but here's the recipe if you're interested:

Creamy Pasta Bake, from Healthy Cooking for Your Kids

6 oz whole wheat pasta (I used rotini, but you could use shells, penne, or any other medium-sized pasta)
1 tbsp olive oil
5 oz white mushrooms, quartered
1 broccoli crown, broken into small florets
2 cooked boneless/skinless chicken breasts, shredded
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup milk
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
2 oz cheddar cheese, grated (I am sure I at least doubled this)
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375F. Cook pasta for 10-12 minutes or until tender, then drain. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet and cook the mushrooms until beginning to brown. Boil or steam the broccoli until just cooked, then drain. Add chicken to the mushrooms and stir well. Blend the cornstarch with a little milk in a pitcher, then gradually add the remaining milk, stirring. Pour into the pan, add the sour cream, and warm through, stirring. Add the pasta and broccoli to the skillet and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix well, then transfer to a baking dish, top with cheese, and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Serve hot.

Another Day at the Farm

This time we had friends join us for the fun. Train ride, hay pyramid, slides, animals, and apples. Good times. Aren't these little boys adorable?

Going down the slide built for two...

The view from the top of the hay pyramid...


Holding hands on the way to the train...


Thanks, C and O for a fun morning!

9.28.2009

That Elusive Smile

My mom has been bugging me for a picture of the little boy smiling. Although I continue to tell her that he is a happy giggly little boy, I haven't been able to offer proof. When I try to capture his smiles, this is what I get:

9 times out of 10 I get this, the "whatchyoutalkinbout, Willis?" expression...


Sometimes I get the very end of a smile, as it's going away...



And this is as close as I've gotten so far, but I promise I'll keep trying, Mom!

Jeans, September, and Chubby Baby Fingers

*A playing with a monkey on his back didn't even make the list! That's how good life is.


During a conversation last week, my sister mentioned that she and her husband were going to write down their happy lists, just to remind themselves of all the happy and positive things in their lives. It reminded me that I've been slacking on posting my weekly three beautiful things. A one-time happy list is good and fun, but it's important to maintain your focus on the infinite wonderful things life has to offer. So I am renewing my efforts, and here are this week's Three Beautiful Things:

1. I'm back in all my own clothes, and I've donated all my maternity clothes. Wearing my own jeans is such a beautiful thing. Knowing that my pregnant days are behind me is a bittersweet but beautiful thing as well.

2. Cool and crisp September days with clear blue skies and orange trees. Last week's quote from A: "Mom, look at that tree! The leaves are turning orange and red and yellow. Isn't that cool? I like it when the trees do that."

3. I love the way the little boy holds on to the neck of my shirt when he's nursing. I could stroke his soft pudgy fingers all day long.

9.25.2009

Blog Love - Closet Cooking

I haven't tried it yet but.....YUM!
I recently discovered another fun cooking blog: Closet Cooking. Tons of ideas and nice pictures too. Check it out!

9.24.2009

Banana Bars

*Image from here
Okay, I realize my blog has been mostly pictures of my boys and recipes lately, but I guess that's a reflection of what my life has been lately. We are officially in baking season, and I'm also participating in the online cooking group, so there will no doubt be more recipes in the coming weeks. We're also going apple-picking tomorrow, so you know what that means: pie! (and cake and turnovers and whatever other yummy things I decide to do with apples this year.)

So what puts you in a baking mood? For me, all it takes is a cool day. I've also been more motivated lately by my toddler. Aaron enjoys helping me cook now, especially baking, and that makes it that much more fun. Yesterday, it was two big brown bananas that put me in the mood. I could've made a banana bread, but I decided instead on these awesome banana bars. I'd made them before but haven't had them in a while. They are GOOD! Seriously. I'm adding them to my sidebar now. Definitely a keeper.

I used regular chocolate chips instead of the minis, which is totally fine. I think my favorite part of this recipe is the fact that it says it makes 48 bars. Totally cracks me up every time I see that! It makes about half that for any normal person. And you will probably eat four of them in a single sitting. I've eaten about half the sheet today, little bite by little bite. Addictive. So beware, but enjoy. Happy baking!

We Went to the Zoo and All I Got...

...were these fuzzy photos. (That's an ostrich in the background in case you were curious.) Aaron wanted nothing to do with getting his picture taken when we were looking at the animals, but he was excited when eating lunch. Unfortunately, my camera focused on his cup. Ah well. We had a good time, and it's all about the experience anyway, right?

9.23.2009

Happeez

Have you heard of Happeez? It's a line of products like magnets, notepads, etc, that stick to lots of surfaces where magnets can't, such as stainless steel, mirrors, and glass. They're also really cute! Check them out at Mayfair Lane.

Photos of the Day

More tummy time...



9.22.2009

Tex-Mex Pasta Salad (Online Cooking Club - Week 1)

Joslyn at Raising Foodies came up with the idea of starting an online cooking club. (Great idea and thanks for starting it!) Basically, it's just a good excuse to try some new recipes and blog about it. And we'll have a list of other blogs doing the same thing so we have lots of new recipes to read about and potentially try.

As she mentions, this article serves as a great reminder that while it's great to try new things, it's also nice to have a solid list of recipes that go in your recipe file as standards. When you think about the meals you ate as a kid, what are the ones that stand out to you? Of course it's the ones your mom made all the time. And she probably made them all the time because they were easy, inexpensive, and tasty.

I think I'm doing a decent job so far of accumulating those standards. Some of the recipes I go back to again and again are posted here, and they include: Spaghetti and Meatballs, Panko-Encrusted Fish Sticks, and Chunky Vegetarian Chili. But I love trying new things, and I love it when I find a recipe that becomes a keeper.


My Week 1 entry for the online cooking club was Tex-Mex Pasta Salad. My son is not yet 3, so he's not really into lettuce just yet. Once he is, I know he'll enjoy Stephmodo's Southwestern Salad - which has also become one of our family's favorites. In the meantime, this pasta salad contains all the wonderful flavors of a Mexican meal but in a kid-friendly way.


In an effort to increase our consumption of whole grains, I've started cooking with half wheat and half white pasta. (Although we don't really like a full meal with whole wheat pasta, half and half is barely noticeable at all!) Same with rice, by the way.

I made the recipe as noted, although I didn't have any green onions. One of the great things about this recipe is that you can substitute items depending on what you have in your fridge and what your picky eaters will eat. Aaron gobbled up this dish! Even the veggies. He doesn't like cooked peppers, but since they are raw in this dish, he said they were yummy. Same with tomatoes. He always likes pasta and beans, and he even likes olives.


So overall....this recipe was a hit and will definitely get a repeat performance in our house!

(Now I'm going to see what everyone else made.)

Photo of the Day

This is what sunny September days are all about!

9.21.2009

Fall Love

#1 - Looooove apple pie



As I did with Summer, I thought I'd jot down the first 2o things that come to mind when I think about what I love about Fall. My absolute favorite season!



1. Picking apples and making apple pies

2. Raking leaves (the smell of the leaves and the good sore that results)

3. Clear blue skies and crisp cool air

4. Picking pumpkins and carving jack-o-lanterns

5. Harvest and Pumpkin Festivals

6. Apple cider

7. Mums in every possible color

8. Octoberfest beers

9. Playoff baseball games

10. Visiting the farm

11. Thanksgiving

12. Planning for Christmas

13. Shifting towards cool-weather meals like chili

14. Keeping warm in front of a fireplace

15. College football games

16. Back to school sales (I'm sure I'll love these even more a few years from now)

17. A's birthday

18. Visiting a B&B in Vermont (isn't happening this year unfortunately, but it's typically an annual tradition)

19. The first smell of a fire in a fireplace

20. Gorgeous foliage here in New England - vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows

What do you love about Fall?


#2 - also includes playing in the leaves


#4 - even more fun picking pumpkins from our own yard!

9.17.2009

Fun Kid Stuff

*Image found here
Have you heard of Greener Grass Design? They have some really cute things! The above picture shows really cute placemats - they come in a set of 26, with fun animal pictures for every letter of the alphabet. They might actually keep Aaron entertained while I'm finishing dinner. Hmmm. Is it time to start Christmas lists? This shower curtain is also very fun.

Some of their items, particularly the wooden furniture and toys, can be pretty expensive, but it's a cool site and they have some neat things. Check them out!

9.16.2009

Look Everyone! I Just Rolled Over for the First Time!

He was surprised. I was excited. Oh, I have to remember all these milestones! So fun!

9.14.2009

Happy Anniversary!

Picture from our honeymoon in France. Don't we look young and carefree?

Today marks seven years from the day of our wedding - ten years from our first date! Such happy memories. Happy Anniversary, Sweetie! Here's to many more years and many more memories.


9.11.2009

Have Fun in the Kitchen with your Kids

*He really loves helping me bake!



*Shucking corn is one of Aaron's summertime favorites!

As I've mentioned before, I enjoy having the big boy help me in the kitchen. It keeps him happily entertained, and I believe he learns from it as well. Here are some of my thoughts about how to get your toddler involved in the kitchen.

1. Start at the grocery store. The big boy loves going to the store with me. Ever since he could point, he's loved going and learning the names of everything that goes into our cart. The produce section is the favorite, of course. At 2 1/2, he knows the names of everything from avocado to zucchini.

2. Ask for his input to meal planning. When it comes to dinnertime, it is what it is. But I will often allow him some choices when planning ahead. Such as, "should we have zucchini or peas with our pasta?" (It's almost always peas, but sometimes he surprises me.) And although I'm more strict with dinner, I do offer choices for breakfast and lunch. ("Oatmeal or waffles", "turkey sandwich or grilled cheese") I don't want him to be able to demand what he wants, but giving him a choice sometimes can help him get more excited about getting to the table and eating his meal.

3. Establish kitchen rules. And be consistent. The big boy knows that "only Mommy touches knives", and "never touch the oven/stove".

4. Have kid-friendly cooking supplies. There are some things they won't be able to use - anything breakable, the blender, etc, but there are lots of items in the kitchen that they can use. Cookie sheets, baking pans, spatulas, mixing spoons, salad spinner (one of A's favorites!)... I don't think "toy" supplies are necessary at all, and they want to use the real thing anyway.

5. Find ways to get your child involved in the cooking process. Start small, with tasks such as pushing the top of the salad spinner to help dry the lettuce. But very quickly, you'll be able to dole out more tasks, with your supervision of course. These include:
- Tearing lettuce
- Shucking corn or preparing other vegetables (de-stemming, etc.)
- Rinsing fruits/vegetables
- Measuring ingredients (with close supervision - A scoops, I smooth out the top with a knife, and he pours it in the bowl)
- Cracking and beating eggs (a current favorite)
- Opening packages
- Stirring

6. Don't forget clean-up. Aaron has loved washing dishes since he could stand on the chair in front of the sink. It's not exactly environmentally-friendly, having the faucet run while he rinses dishes for me, but we've both gotten better about getting it done more quickly. He rinses the dishes, I load into the dishwasher. And speaking of, he also likes helping me unload the dishwasher - he can put the silverware away and stack his (plastic) bowls and plates for me.

7. Have fun! I have a lot of fun when the big boy is engaged in the process with me. You obviously have to have patience. Provide a lot of praise along the way. Talk about everything you're doing. It's amazing how quickly they absorb information. And be silly - sing songs and make it fun!

I hope that by doing these things, he will continue to learn, he'll appreciate the effort that goes into his meals, and he'll eventually enjoy cooking himself!



*He was definitely interested in our preparation of a lobster dinner. He stayed hands-off on that one, though.

9.10.2009

Apple Picking

You know how some people take a picture of their kids in the same place every year so they can watch them grow? For a lot of people, it's the first day of school. I'm thinking that perhaps we'll compare pictures of apple-picking. It's something we will continue to do every year, and we already have pictures to compare. It'd be a fun tradition to continue. I'll try to get a better picture for this year the next time we go apple-picking - we'll definitely go more than once this year - but for now...

Here's 2008:




And here's some from 2009:


9.09.2009

Organizing Update


Remember this post? I had come up with a list of projects I want to have completed by 10/31. It's time for a check-in to see how I'm doing. Less than two months left!


1. Clean out sock drawers. Match up or throw away singles. Get rid of holies.
2. Break down and get wood hangers for our closet. (No, but I did just get another Bed Bath & Beyond coupon, so perhaps that's my sign to go ahead and do this.)
3. Clean out/organize medicine cabinets. Throw away everything that's expired. (Except a few of K's personal items, because he gets pissed at me when I do that.)
4. Spend a couple weeks organizing meals around pantry items that have been there a while and need to be used up. Donate any other old and unused items. (This is an ongoing item, though. Right now I'm still working my way through a whole row of half-used pasta boxes.)
5. Rotate winter/summer clothes. Donate any unwanteds.
6. Rotate summer/winter clothes. Donated any unwanteds.
7. Donate all my maternity clothes. (Done today! And WOOHOO for getting into my own jeans again!)
8. Organize bathroom drawers.
9. Clean out kitchen junk drawer. (Worse than ever, I'm afraid.)
10. Get rid of excess/old tupperware/containers. Return a few to Mom-in-law. (Partially done. Going to in-laws this weekend, so this is a good reminder to bring a few along.)
11. Clean out recipe binder - eliminate recipes I haven't tried yet or didn't like.
12. Donate my wedding dress. (Okay, latest update on this is that my sister wants to give it a try, so this is on hold for now.)
13. Organize all our books on bookshelves. Prioritize and donate anything that doesn't fit on a shelf. (Office is almost done. Really.)
14. Clean out the car. Load a CD case with driving music. (I need some different tunes now, though.)
15. Organize kitchen cabinet containing all my baking supplies.
16. Freecycle our old grill. (I don't know why this isn't done, but I think it's too late now. It might have to sit in our shed until next summer.
Hmmmm. I still have a ways to go. I better get going! I'm off to organize those bathroom drawers right now!

Something Different

*Image from here
I've started cooking with the big boy. Finding ways he can help me in the kitchen has been a great way of getting him out of the living room (away from the TV), especially on rainy or cold days. I am sure we'll do plenty more as Winter approaches.
I found this recipe for Lemon-Zucchini Cornmeal Cookies in the last issue of Real Food, and I thought it looked interesting. I knew my husband would never approve of spending time making cookies without chocolate, so I waited until he went out of town. I love finding recipes that just happen to use ingredients I have on hand. I literally had one lemon as well as one zucchini, with no plans for either. So this recipe was perfect! The big boy also loves watching me grate things. And an added bonus: a little more green into his belly.
The results? Pretty good! Unique, to be sure, but I love most things with a lemon flavor. A friend mentioned, and I agree, that they taste perhaps more like scones than cookies. They have a wonderful salty-sweet taste, and they're not too heavy or rich like classic chocolate chip or other flavors.
Anyway, if you're in the mood for something a little different or you happen to have an extra lemon and zucchini around the next time you break out your cookie sheets, keep this one in mind.
UPDATE: I had to add this quote from A: "I still like chocolate chip ones better, but I'm going to eat these because they're super super yummy!"

9.08.2009

Five Senses Weekend

*The boy is fearless!

See
- The big boy running "really really fast" at the Farmer's Market
- The little boy smiling and cooing at me. He's getting more expressive every day!
- Clear blue September skies
Hear
- The big boy say "I want Sara to come back so we can play outside". It's so fun to have visitors.
- The "choo-choo" of the train that took me and the boys through the apple orchards at a nearby farm

Taste
- Probably the season's last corn on the cob
- Blueberry pancakes, like most Sunday mornings. Enjoying them with fresh blueberries while they last.
- A good glass of pinot noir (Sara, when we come visit you we are definitely taking a trip to some Willamette valley vineyards)

Smell
- Sunday morning bacon
- Fresh paint. Not really a great smell, but an exciting smell as we near the end of painting in the office. Pictures to follow once we're really done.

Touch
- Lots of hugs from my boys
- Lavendar sea salt scrub, for use when I have an extra few minutes in the shower. I've gotten to use it most days this week. What a luxury!
- Scratchy hay, as the big boy and I climbed the hay pyramid at the farm

Tummy Time and Smiles


9.03.2009

Free Art - Just Print, Frame and Hang!

Have an empty spot on a wall that needs a little something? Trying to decorate a playroom or nursery? Check out these free downloads. Some of them, like those I've shown here, are really cute. Just get a decent piece of paper to print them on, frame them, and put them up! How sweet is that?

9.02.2009

Brotherly Love


9.01.2009

This Week's Menu



photo via Cooking Light

Spinach Stuffed Shells, Salad, Crusty Bread
Turkey Reuben Sandwiches, Chips, Sliced Tomatoes
Turkey Mini Meat Loaves, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans
Maple-Glazed Salmon, Rice, Salad
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