Monday, August 31, 2009
5 quirks about me:
1. I can't stand clutter on my counters. The first thing I do when I start the cleaning process is take everything off the countertops. Then I feel the motivation to continue.
2. I almost always use my turn signals when driving, even in parking lots. It just feels wrong when I don't, and it annoys me when other drivers don't use theirs.
3. When eating, I have to leave something on my plate. I can never finish an entire meal.
4. Wire hangers are my nemesis. I take my clothes off the hangers before I leave the drycleaners and hand it back to them. I don't even want them in my house.
5. I love drinking hot water. Not tea. Not hot water with lemon and honey. Just plain hot water.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Do you love lasagna? Do you hate the time it takes to make lasagna? Look no further! I've got the solution! Under normal circumstances, I would happily take on this labor of love in exchange for yummy layers of pasta, cheese, meat, sauce, and more cheese. But attempting to create this masterpiece with a toddler who wants to "help" is impossible. That's why Skillet Lasagna is perfect! One pan. 20 minutes. A delicious dinner.
Skillet Lasagna, recipe taken from Cook's Country
- 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 lb ground beef or your choice of meat
- 10 curly-edged lasagna noodles, broken into 2-inch lengths
- 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add ground meat and cook, breaking apart meat, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes.
3. Scatter pasta over meat but do not stir. Pour diced tomatoes with juices and tomato sauce over pasta. Cover and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender, about 20 minutes.
4. Remove skillet from heat and stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Dot with heaping tablespoons ricotta, cover, and let stand off heat for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Serve.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I've been cut off. Yes, its true...the husband has officially taken the credit card away from me. Well, not really but he is cracking down on card usage. Ahhh...those late nights of online shopping have finally caught up with her, you say to yourself. Come on now, you know I'm not like that! I do like to buy nice things (who doesn't??) but I also understand the value of money, which is why I'm more than happy to go along with whatever the financial guru (that would be Scott) says. He thinks we need a budget. And he's right. We rarely keep track of our expenses and have been fortunate to not fight about money. We're both pretty thrifty when we need to be, but I know that I can easily drop a hundred dollars each time I go to the grocery store...several times a week. Add to that my almost daily Target runs, Scott's weakness for Specialty's sandwiches every lunch hour, and you get the picture.
So, we've taken an idea from our friends Kier and Liz and created a budget based on cash only. Each week, we take out X amount of money for each of us and we need to make it last until the following week. That includes all food, diapers, clothing, and non-essential items (like my Tory Burch shoes...which, in some parts of the country are considered essential!!) Anyhoo, if we spend all our money on the first day of the week, we're SOL until the next week. We can borrow from each other's allotment, but we cannot take out more money or use credit cards. If we need to purchase items online, we still deduct it from our cash for the week.
I think its a good plan. Everyone needs a budget, even the super wealthy (which we most definitely are not) so we know where our money is going and can plan and save for special things. I think things mean more when you have to save up to buy them. I know that sweater at Nordstrom might lose it's appeal if I actually have to part with my cash, knowing it could be used for something I need more. And it's kind of fun coming up with creative ways to make your money go further. There are still so many cool parks left to explore, so many activities that don't require a lot of money. What children want most is your time, not a ton of stuff to keep them happy.
Monday, August 17, 2009
We've just spent the weekend "camping" on Cohasset Beach in Westport, WA. I say camping, because this trip was originally intended to be a "pitch a tent, build a bonfire, squat and pee" for realsies camping expedition. However, the more I thought about it, the less thrilled I became with the idea. I should tell you that I've never been camping before in my life (excluding my highschool senior all-nighter where I passed out in a tent somewhere in the woods and was bitten by a spider during the night).
If the conditions were more attractive...say, for example, I didn't have a crazy active 2 year old who only needs 20 minutes of sleep to function, then I might be more open-minded about the whole adventure. But this is just disaster waiting to happen, and not the good kind I like to write about. So, we started looking into renting a condo on the beach so we could still build a bonfire and have the camp experience. Well, trying to find a condo that would sleep 6 adults and 4 kids proved to be quite challenging. We then moved on to homes and stumbled upon Cohasset Beach Homes. Damn...this would be very hard to turn down. We had no choice but to book it. This... would not be camping. This would be the complete opposite of camping, unless most campsites are equipped with a Subzero fridge and a humongous soaking tub with a view of the beach?? I didn't think so.
The 3+ hour drive from Seattle went well. We timed it with O's nap and brought the DVD player to fill in the blanks. Seriously, thank god for portable DVD players!! We spent most of our time playing on the beach, running away from the waves, collecting sand dollars, flying kites, building sand castles, and corralling driftwood for our nightly beach bonfire. We went into town once to get ice cream and fresh crab but other than that, we found more than enough activities to keep us busy at the house. There's nothing better than waking up to the sound of the ocean!
Thursday, August 13, 2009
I get asked that question on a regular basis. Before that, I would get bombarded with the "when are you getting married?" question and then after I checked that box off, it was the "when are you having kids?" question. People!!! Have I not held up my end of the bargain? I've fulfilled your requests and now you should stop being so nosy and leave me alone. I will have another child when I'm ready...or not. It's my choice. Believe it or not, I actually had some dude at the magazine counter at the Spokane airport reprimand me for not wanting to have more children. "It's not about you", he said, wagging his self-righteous finger at me. "It's your obligation to give your son a brother or sister. You're being selfish."
At the risk of sounding narcissistic, it IS all about ME. I can't be a good mother if I'm stretched beyond my limit. I'm not going to rear and be responsible for another human being just for the sake of giving my son a playmate. We have enough friends to play with (see 13 babies). We are really enjoying this stage of Owen's life right now and want to devote all our attention to him. I can't stand the thought of him having to share us with another baby. In addition, doing the baby thing again right now scares the sh*t out of me! Contrary to popular belief, you don't forget about those first 6 months of sleep deprivation, crying (mom and baby), feeding & changing every 2 hours around the clock, and general zombie-like behavior. No thank you! Unless I develop sudden amnesia, I've got those memories stored at the forefront of my brain, reminding me not to give in to peer pressure as well as societal pressures. So, in response to all of you out there--No, I don't want to try for a girl. No, it's not a terrible thing if Owen is an only child. No, I don't want to have another one... At least not right now.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Spending $100 on a play kitchen for my son was the best investment I've ever made. If I had to trade in every single toy in the house in exchange for the kitchen, I would do it in a heartbeat. We've had it for well over 6 months now and not a single day goes by that he doesn't play with it. In addition to "cooking", he also loves opening and closing the doors to the fridge, using the microwave, turning the knobs on the stove, washing his hands in the sink, and preparing all sorts of meals with his cookware and play food.
I bought him a set of pots and pans from Ikea, a bunch of super cute play food from Haba and a cool eco-friendly set of dishware made from recycled milk jugs in gender neutral colors. Speaking of colors, why are all play kitchens pink??? Don't toymakers realize that boys cook too? I've read that pretend play assists in the development of cognitive, verbal, and social skills. Kids who play imagination games learn to empathize and interact with others. Owen loves mimicking what I do in the kitchen, and I love how proud he is when he brings me one of his food "creations".
French fries, an egg, a carton of milk, a slice of tomato and a bon bon! A nice well-rounded meal!
And even if he doesn't become a world-class chef, at least he can use his skillz to impress the ladies!
Sunday, August 9, 2009
...and the madness doesn't end there...unfortunately. My friend Danny also was under the impression that perhaps I would like to dress like Miley Cyrus and e-mailed me a picture of a shirt he thought I would like from her new collection at Walmart.
So obviously, all this worrying about getting old was futile! I'm still trying to process all of this and not quite sure if I should be offended or flattered...
Big O...you are a playa!!!
Saturday, August 8, 2009
In the meantime, I need to come up with a gift that he'll get really excited about. Okay...I have a confession to make...
I already bought him the wagon.
And I put it together myself.
And...I gave it to him last Sunday.
As usual, he blew it off. Didn't want anything to do with it, even though our first trip in the wagon was to pick up his girlfriend Natalie and head to the pool...two of his favorite things in the world. Nope, the little prince demanded to be carried the entire way there. At least Natalie was excited to ride in the wagon!! He did warm up to it on the way back home but it definitely wasn't the reaction I was hoping for....which is pretty much par for the course these days. Kids are so spoiled!!
However, I have to say that since then, he's been happy to go on rides around the neighborhood. Which makes me happy because I hate the idea of spending a ton of money on something that will never get used. I spent a lot of time researching my wagon purchase, as I do with most things I buy. It's my nature...I like to have all the facts and read all the reviews. Then I try to find the best price.
I was torn between 3 wagons. The Radio Flyer Pathfinder (which is the one we ended up buying), the Radio Flyer All Terrain with removable wooden sides, or the Step 2 Wagon for Two Plus, which is very similar to the Pathfinder but is a little smaller and has a door. I ultimately chose the Pathfinder for several reasons.... Even though I'm not a huge fan of plastic toys, I liked that O could climb in and out of it smoothly and safely. I liked the fact that it had drain holes in the bottom and would be okay if we left it outside in the rain. There are 2 separate seats with seat belts to make the ride more comfortable but the seats also fold down to create a flat surface for the kids to lay down or play in. There are 4 cup holders (great for mommies who want to bring adult beverages along) and the handle is longer than the Step 2 which makes it ergonomically correct for parents.
Putting it together was a breeze. It took about 15 minutes and all that was required was a hammer. I decided not to install the seat belts because I really don't think they'll get used anyway. Most 2 year olds are also Houdini's who can escape from the most intricate of restraints so those flimsy seat belts are child's play!
Now, with all this behind me, I have an entire year to start thinking about next year's birthday gifts!!
Friday, August 7, 2009
29th birthday. Can I go on now??
Uncle Rico had been asking to hang out with Big O for a while and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. We would only be 6 blocks away if they needed us, I'd get to dine at a restaurant that serves something other than mac-n-cheese or hotdogs, and O gets to spend time with 2 of the coolest people we know! Other than a tiny bump on the cheek, no one was hurt! I was really more concerned for our friends than our son! Since O skipped his afternoon nap that day, I couldn't be sure which one of his personalities they would receive, especially since he'd also be staying up waaaay past his usual bedtime. But, it's amazing what an Elmo dvd, cars, and lots of snacks can do to keep a kid happy.
It's been a long time since we've tried a new restaurant. I am always afraid to venture out into new dining territory. As most of you know, I'm very particular about my food and when I take the time and effort to fix my hair and pick out an outfit other than sweats to eat at your restaurant, it'd better be GOOD. Restaurant Zoë is very european...a friend described their menu as "carnivorous" before we arrived and he was right...calf brains, cow tongue, pork belly...but please don't let that scare you. Everything we had was absolutely delicious. We started off with the hog croustillant appetizer, which was basically this deep-fried pulled pork cake, then moved on to the palmex foie gras tourchon--fatty duck/goose liver...sooo good. For our entrees, Scott had the wild boar bolognese, and I had the painted hills beef short rib. It was a lovely meal and I would definitely recommend it if you are in the mood to try something different.
I've always been envious of how my mom can invent a new dish just by using simple ingredients she has on hand. She has a way of knowing what spices and flavors go best together. Almost all her dishes include the use of garlic, ginger, green onion, soy sauce and oyster sauce. And every meal had to be accompanied by a heaping serving of steamed rice...the mango chicken was no exception. I loved how the opposing flavor and texture of the chicken and the mango contrasted with each other. I loved spooning the sauce over my rice...it was one of the few times I would finish everything on my plate!
The other day, as I was flipping through my recipe file, I came across a mango chicken recipe I had torn out from a Seattle Home magazine years ago and had forgotten about. I was curious to see how this one compared to the one my mom made. As I scanned the ingredients list, I noticed that some of them were foreign to our household (we never used cream or butter in our recipes growing up) but it was basically the same concept. Tasting it for the first time brought back memories from my childhood, and even though it wasn't the same as my mom's, the crux of it was there.
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
4 fresh, ripe mangos, chopped (I used 2 bags of Trader Joe's frozen mango chunks to make it easier)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2-1 cup half & half
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup chopped green onion
salt to taste
*In a large mixing bowl, mix soy sauce and cornstarch until dissolved. Add chicken and stir well.
*Heat oil in large pot and cook chicken until just done, about 5-7 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and add crushed red pepper and garlic. Cook for 30 seconds stirring constantly.
*Add mango chunks and cook for 5 minutes until mangos start to break up a little.
*Stir in brown sugar and half & half and cook for 3 more minutes.
*Add butter and green onion and stir for 2 minutes.
*Combine chicken with sauce and ladle over rice.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Frankly, I just don't have time to make the gourmet meals my family is used to...by the time 5pm rolls around and I start thinking about dinner, I'm totally wiped and fresh out of ideas. In fact, I'd love for someone to make ME dinner for a change. But since there's a slim to none chance of that happening in my lifetime, 30 minute meals are the next best thing. Therefore, I'm going through all my cookbooks and collection of recipes to find the ones that are up for the challenge. And with the heat, minimal oven and stove usage is preferred.
Last night I made lettuce wraps with ground turkey (a recipe taken from Bon Appetit with a few modifications). I bought a bag of julienned carrots, sliced up some cucumber, whipped up a tasty peanut sauce to go with it and they were gobbled up in minutes. Because the meal took such little time to prepare, I even made (from scratch nonetheless) an almond peach cobbler for dessert, breaking the oven rule and my self-imposed, no-baking rule (I'm a terrible baker so I'm doing everyone a favor by enforcing this rule). Luckily, cobblers are pretty foolproof and combined with a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream, it was the perfect ending to a great Sunday night meal.
Tomorrow...steamed salmon and warm spinach salad. Even though it sounds healthy, the salad is loaded with bacon, eggs, and praline pecans. Another rule of mine -- I don't believe in non-fat or substitutes...bring on the real stuff...just eat in moderation. Sounds easy enough right? :)