I made it to the end of NaBloPoMo. I was a bit intimidated, but it was much easier than I thought it would be. There were a couple of scary posts when I almost didn't make it, but I did end up posting at least once every day this month. Amazing.
It's been a quiet day around here today. After a pretty busy week, it was nice to just relax and not have to go anywhere today. Our weather break of the last few days - in the 40s with blue skies - has ended, and the snow has returned. We're in the middle of a Winter Storm Watch with lake-effect snow for tomorrow. We've only had a little more than a dusting so far, but it has been snowing on and off all day.
We lost a daughter today and gained a cat. She's walking around on all fours, meowing, and arching her back when we pet her back. I'm not quite sure where the kitty fascination is coming from, but it's pretty funny to watch.
I can't promise to post every day in December, but I'm going to try to post more often that I had been.
In the meantime, I leave you with this clip I saw on another blog this morning. Like all good humor, there are some real truths here.
Granddaddy and Grandma Nora left today. It was a quick visit, but a very nice one. Sera loved getting to spend so much time with her grandparents. We really need to figure out a way for her to see them more.
I don't know what I was thinking, but I never pulled out my camera. Late last night I thought of it and Jim reminded me this morning, so I was able to take the camera with us to the airport and get some shots there at least.
If nothing else, I can assure you that they left well fed. Besides Thanksgiving on Thursday, we took them to our favorite Chinese restaurant for lunch on Friday and our favorite steak restaurant for dinner. We've never left the steak restaurant without leftovers, and this time we have dad and Nora's, too. Between those and leftover turkey, I won't be cooking for days.
Speaking of cooking, the sink is still stopped up and we haven't tested the oven again. I figured we'd deal with it next week when it wasn't a "holiday" weekend anymore Since the oven will still turn on, it just won't stay on, I'm hoping it's just a part that needs replacing.
This morning we all headed out for a big breakfast before going to the airport. See, I told you they were well fed. We got to the airport in plenty of time for their flight only to learn it was delayed. There is a nice section right next to the concourse they were departing from with rocking chairs in front of a huge plate glass window. We all sat there and watched Sera play until their plane finally left. It's such a small airport that we were able to watch them enter their gate after they passed through security, walk across the tarmac, and board their plane. They were waving to Sera, and she to them, until they stepped inside the plane.
We went upstairs to watch their plane leave, but it taxied to the end of the runway and parked. We waited about 20 minutes and left. It was way past Sera's nap time and she actually said I done, mommy. And she was.
A short nap and a snugglefest on the couch while we watched Polar Expressperked her back up. Tonight, my favorite holiday movie, White Christmas, is on. Sounds like a perfect evening.
Granddaddy, Sera, & Grandma Nora
Everyone gets one!
Isn't this the sweetest picture?
Sera loved spending time with her Grandma Nora
I love this silhouette of Sera and Daddy watching the plane leave
What a holiday. I'm either becoming quite calm in my middle age, or I'm delusional.
Everything was going so well. On Wednesday night, I made the sweet potato casserole and a bourbon chocolate pecan pie. I also prepped the veggie tray and chopped up the onions and green peppers I'd need for the dressing.
I woke up early Thursday morning and made cranberry sauce and a pumpkin gooey butter cake. I prepped the turkey and got it in the oven by 10 am. At 18 pounds and unstuffed, it should have taken a little more than three hours to roast.
My dad and stepmother's flight was due in at noon. Our plan was to have everything ready to go and Sera put down for her nap before Jim left to pick them up at the airport. My dad called around 10 to let us know the flight was delayed by 18 minutes. I pulled up the flight information and kept it refreshed on the laptop. They ended up delayed an hour. No biggie.
I made the dressing and peeled the potatoes. Just as the garbage disposal churned up the last of the peels, brown nasty water starting coming back up the drain. Jim got the plunger and started working on it. Unfortunately the only thing this did was increase the amount of water in the sink. He went online and found a website for our garbage disposal. He followed their directions. Nada. While Jim was working on this, I checked my thermometer to see how the turkey was doing. I have one where you stick a probe in the meat and it's attached to a digital device and alarm. I noticed that the turkey temperature had dropped almost 20 degrees.
I opened the oven door, and it was not hot. I turned the oven off and restarted it. It heated back up, so I breathed a big sigh of relief. I told Jim I'd just cover that side of the sink with a sheet pan, and took Sera up for her nap. We were running later than our original schedule, but still on time according to the new arrival time.
When Jim left, I cleaned up from my morning cooking, took a shower, and dressed. When I went back downstairs to the kitchen, the oven had shut off again. This time it had completely turned itself off. I prepped asparagus for roasting as our veggie and crossed my fingers.
You'd think by now I'd be in a panic, but I wasn't. My thoughts were that if nothing else, we had all the side dishes. I also thought that if worse came to worst, we'd get some gas for the grill and throw the turkey on the grill.
Jim arrives with my dad and Nora. I pull out the veggie tray, and Jim gets Sera up for her nap. And the oven shuts off AGAIN! I finally pull the turkey out of the oven around 3:00. Only two hours later than it should have been. The skin never really browned, but how could it when the oven kept shutting off? I was pretty sure I'd cooked it to temp via my thermometer, but was also sure it would be a dry mess.
I got the sweet potatoes and dressing in the oven and put the potatoes on to boil. Went to check on the oven about 20 minutes later, and it was off again. Turned it back on, got everything heated, made the gravy, made the mashed potatoes, and Jim started to carve the turkey. When he started carving, Jim thought he was seeing pink. I just poured the rest of the stock into the roasting pan where I'd just poured out the gravy and told him to toss the slices in. I'd poach them 'til they were done. Luckily, it was a false alarm.
At 4:00 pm, the five of us finally sat down to eat. Only two hours later than I had planned with our revised schedule.
There were two miracles that occurred. One, I never freaked. And the turkey was actually moist.
Once again, I found myself incredibly thankful for the opportunity to parent my lovely daughter. I'm thankful for a wonderful husband. And I'm thankful for a wonderful family. Everyone is doing well, and we're all very lucky. I'm also thankful that my dad and stepmom are going to be here in just a few hours for their first visit. Finally, I leave you with one of my favorite Thanksgiving classics.
Okay, I only have 45 minutes before I blow NaBloPoMo. Can't do it. I am also fried. On the other hand, my frig is cleaned out and ready for leftovers. I've baked a Boubon Chocolate Pecan Pie and my sweet potato casserole. Veggie tray is made and in the frig, and onions and green peppers are prepped for dressing. I'm in good shape for tomorrow. I fell behind laundry wise though.
Since I'm brain dead. I'm blatantly stealing this from Tammie.
Scattergories . . . It's harder than it looks! Use the first letter of your name to answer each of the following. They have to be real places, names, things . . . nothing made up. You CAN'T use your name for the boy/girl name question.
What is your name: Magi Boy name: Matt 4 letter word: moat Girl name: Melissa Occupation: masseuse A color: magenta Something you wear: mittens Beverage: milk Food: mostaccioli Something found in a bathroom: mat A place: Michigan Reason for being late: missed the turn Something you shout: move Shadow
I'm a combination of an overly organized person with a major lazy streak. I'm happiest when everything is organized and where it belongs. If it all starts to fall apart for whatever reason, I will procrastinate forever straightening it back up.
The worse it gets, the more I avoid it until it grows to nightmare proportions. For that reason alone, I'm sorry I didn't take a picture of my pantry this afternoon.
My back hurts. I'm exhausted, and I still need to throw some clothes in the wash, but...
It's all purty now. I also have three bags of trash, one large box of donations for the food pantry, and 9000 boxes of Jell-O.
It's gone. We haven't used it in months. Sera likes to call it her baby high chair. A co-worker of Jim's actually loaned it to us when we brought Sera home. It was great to have one less thing on that shopping list. They were no longer using it, but haven't decided they don't want to use it again. They've also fostered in the past, so it's possible they'll foster again. In the meantime, they've let us use it.
Even though it had just become a piece of furniture to move around, it was still sad to see it go. It's just one more sign of my big girl growing up, which is wonderful - and sad.
In the last few months, I've been making some changes to what we eat. We purchase 95% of our meat from a local butcher who works with local farmers. I try to get to the farmer's market more regularly to stock up on local produce. It's not convenient to get there, so I'm not as successful. I tried signing up with a CSA to have produce delivered to us weekly, but it didn't work out. Jim was on board with all of it because we found that it tasted better and, in many cases, was actually cheaper than buying the mass produced meats or shipped produce. I almost lost him on one item though. The egg.
When I started buying local eggs, I'll admit that the taste difference seemed negligible and the price was often double the regular eggs at the grocery store. They also never go on sale. I think Jim thought I was going a little too far with this one. I told him that I liked the idea that they were coming from local farmers who were treating the chickens humanely and did not add anything to their diet beyond what a chicken normally eats. I also pointed out that you could tell the health of the chicken by the strength of the shell. These eggs had such a thick shell that I actually had to tap them harder against the counter to crack them. He didn't argue with me, but I could tell he was humoring me.
Then we ran out of eggs, and I didn't make it to the farmer's market to get more. Our butcher was working on getting them in, but hadn't yet. Jim made a grocery store run and picked up the storebrand eggs we've eaten for years.
The transition from store to fresh eggs may have been subtle when we switched, but not when we switched back. I could definitely tell the eggs didn't taste as fresh to me. The shells were so thin that I almost crushed one holding it before cracking it. I had already gotten used to the stronger shell. I never mentioned anything. I just thought that we really needed to get to the market that weekend and restock. The next thing I know I hear Jim saying that he sure missed our eggs.
When we went to the market last weekend, I bought two dozen. That afternoon when we returned home, Jim threw the remaining grocery store eggs in the trash.
I like buying from local sources for many reasons. The quality of the food is superior. The prices average to less than we spent in the grocery store. It's green. Our food isn't being trucked across the country. With all the food scares that have been in the news the last few years, it's nice knowing that you can trace your food back to the source.
We're still pretty limited as to what we can get, but I plan to keep trying. Who knows, one year we may even start our own vegetable gardening. I did learn how to can a few years ago.
I know this isn't my usual Sera picture, but it's one she requested. She asked me to take a picture of her folding her blankets. She does a really good job.
When I discovered last weekend that we didn't own Cinderella, I went to Ebay and bought it. It arrived in Thursday's mail.
Sera's preschool had called Jim to pick her up. They said she was running a temp of 103 and had green stuff oozing from her nose. This is the first time we've ever had to pick Sera up early. We made it through all last year's school year and the first three months of this school year. He whipped together sub plans and ran to get her. They sent her home with an ominous note with the above symptoms plus coughing and extreme irratibility. Of course, she ran laughing and playing when he arrived. He came home with her, took her temp while calling the doctor. It was 101, so he gave her Motrin and headed to the doctor. By the time they got there, it was normal. She never coughed. She was in a fine mood. And she's barely congested. Even so, she couldn't go back to school on Friday because they require 24 hours fever-free, so I made sub plans and didn't go to work on Friday.
When I got home on Thursday, we opened up the dvd and popped it in. To say Sera was enthralled would be understating her reaction. She sat right next to me on the sofa for the entire movie. When it ended, she asked to watch it again. Of course, we said no.
Now the thing is, I am sick. Staying home on Friday was probably a good idea for me, but staying home with a 2-year-old who is feeling fine is not restful. When she asked me Friday morning to watch the movie again, I said yes. Again, she watched it like she was glued to the sofa. She is in love with all things Cinderella right now.
We read to her every night, but none of the books we read begin with the words Once Upon a Time. Tonight, she took the book I was reading and starting reading to me. Here is her story:
Once upon a time a beautiful princess Once upon a time a beautiful mommy Once upon a time a beautiful Sera Once upon a time Sera run to mommy Once upon a time Sera run to Shadow Once upon a time Sera run to Ava Once upon a time Sera run to Marcia Once upon a time Sera run to Ava's daddy Once upon a time Sera run to daddy Sera run to daddy fast
But I'm sure I'll find some. I want you to look at the picture above. Looks like a box of old dolls, doesn't it? And that's exactly what it is. But it's also so much more.
A very long time ago, about 40 years ago in fact, I started talking about wanting to start a doll collection. I wanted to get a doll from every country. Not soon afterwards, I received a gift from a relative, a collection of dolls wearing native dress from countries around the world. I'll admit to being a brat and being a little disappointed. I had dreamed of the big, fancy dolls while these were small and more Barbie-like, but without her figure. Luckily, I wasn't an impolite brat. I never expressed this thought out loud and soon I would have denied it. I loved these dolls. I displayed them standing up on the bookshelves in our living room, but took them down almost daily to play with them. My best friend, Rhonda, lived down the street and we played with these dolls whenever we could.
The next part is fuzzy. I was moving. Rhonda and I were both upset and playing with these dolls. It was the last time we would play with them because I had to pack my things. On a whim, I packed my dolls into a brown grocery bag and gave them to Rhonda. I remember telling her to think of me when she played with them. Yes, I was a drama queen. What's fuzzy is the timing. I was thinking it happened when we moved away from Georgia, but my memories don't fit. If my memory is correct, I did this when we moved from our house in town to one further out. It doesn't make sense that it would be so dramatic though. On the other hand, maybe I was prescient. Rhonda was younger than me and went to private school. We rarely saw each other after we moved from the neighborhood. We would leave Georgia entirely within the next two years. Occasionally, I regretted the rashness of giving away my doll collection, but I did what felt right in the moment.
A few times in the years since I've thought about that collection and wondered what happened to it. Sometimes I thought how silly I must have seemed and doubted they had meant as much to Rhonda as they had to me.
Today, I stayed home with Sera. That's another story, but she's fine. When I went upstairs to get her up from her nap, I noticed that we had footprints coming up our driveway. Yes, footprints. We have about 10" of snow right now. When we came back downstairs, I noticed a big box on our doorstep. Through the window, I saw it was addressed to me and the return address was Rhonda's father.
What in the world?
I opened the box and found my dolls. There was a lovely note from Rhonda's mother, Geneva. They had kept the dolls all these years. Geneva and her husband still live in the same small Georgia town. I had heard years ago that Rhonda was in Atlanta, but we lost touch decades ago. Geneva included a lovely note mentioning her granddaughter had played with them often, and that Rhonda had never had children, but they had heard that I had a beautiful little girl who could now have her mother's old dolls.
Because of our moving lifestyle, these dolls would never have survived our many moves. They would have been lost or discarded years ago if they had stayed with me. By giving them away over 35 years ago, they have come back for my little girl.
When I was in college, we used to cook some amazing meals. Since I was majoring in Hospitality Administration, I was going to school with a lot of future foodies. Even my regular group of friends who weren't in my major were really into food.
I belonged to a business fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi. In this group of people, I became friends with some amazing people. One of my very good friends was in the hospitality program with me. We arranged our schedules to take most of our classes together and always worked in the same group on projects. During the first year of the program, we took a class called Lunch. Okay, it wasn't really named that, but I don't remember its real name. Everyone called it lunch. It won't come as any surprise to tell you the second year included a class called dinner.
It sounds like I have a couple of posts I need to write talking about those classes. Anyway, suffice to say that we tested a lot of recipes. I remember sitting in someone's apartment one night making corn chowder. Believe it or not, I'd never had corn chowder before that night. It is so easy, so heartwarming, and so delicious. Of course, it's best when you use fresh corn off the cob. This isn't the exact recipe we made that night. I can't find it, but it's awfully close.
3 sl bacon 1 lg onion, finely chopped 1 stalk celery, chopped 1 1/2 c potatoes, diced 3 c chicken stock 2 c cream style corn 2 c milk 1/4 c butter 1 T fresh chopped parsley salt & pepper to taste
Fry bacon in a Dutch oven; drain and crumble. Set aside.
Add onion to the hot bacon grease and cook five minutes. Then add celery, potatoes,and chicken stock. Cook until potatoes are tender.
Add corn, and heat five minutes.
In a small pot, heat milk and butter, and add to soup.
It's Thursday, so it must be time to discuss Top Chef. I actually get excited when I realize it's Wednesday and I get to watch it. Then on Thursday, I surf all over reading what everyone has to say about the episode.
Bravo will show the episode practically daily, so there are plenty of opportunities for you to catch up. It was interesting to see Donatella venturing over from the Food Network as guest judge. She always seems like she really knows what she's talking about. The quickfire challenge was to create their own hot dog. The elimination challenge was to operate a restaurant with five appetizers, five entrees, and five desserts. One each for the 15 remaining chefs. The bottom two ended up being Ariane for the second week and Jill. With it being Ariane's second time in two episodes on the bottom, you'd think that she'd be eliminated. I wasn't surprised, however, when it was Jill.
I had two reasons for thinking Jill would be the one to go. One, they pretty much hated her dish, but they also hated Ariane's. The second was that she did very badly in the quickfire. Since Donatella was the guest judge for both and Padma always judges at both challenges, I could see how that could influence their final decision. Hosea, who was the third one on the bottom, did very well in the quickfire.
But in reading the blogs today, in particular Tom Colicchio's blog, I read what was probably one of the major factors in the decision. Tom wrote an extended piece explaining New American cuisine. The challenge last night was to prepare dishes in this style. While neither Ariane's nor Jill's dishes were successful, they felt that Ariane's followed the New American guidelines more than Jill's. I can buy that.
That being said, I don't think Ariane is long for the show. Not unless she can pull it together. I'm sure she's an excellent chef, but she seems to lack self-confidence. She was one hot mess at the end of this week's episode, and this is only week two! What's she going to be like another few weeks down the road when the stress and sleep deprivation really kick in?
But what, you ask, about the winner? Fabio did a very well received dish of carpaccio. The key to this dish is buying fresh high quality ingredients. Carpaccio is thinly sliced raw beef. He served it with an aged Parmagiana and an aged balsamic vinegar. I think it was the spherical olives that won it for him because the rest was a matter of slicing and plating. I'm sure it was delicious, but I was left underwhelmed.
With the sudden influx of cold and snowy weather, we developed a craving for chili. Jim made a special stop at the butcher's to get three pounds of freshly ground beef. He wanted a really big pot. He even promised to chop up all the onions and peppers. One hour later, we had a big pot of steaming chili. Now granted, it really should simmer for hours, but when your dinner doesn't get started until 5 pm and bedtime routine begins at 7 pm, you have to make some sacrifices. About a month ago, I found a ground ancho chile powder at Target. I used it as well as regular chile powder in this batch. The ancho chile powder has a wonderful smoky flavor with a spicy bite.
The director of Sera's pre-school stopped us on the way out to rave about Sera. We are so happy with this school. Everyone is so friendly and warm. The kids are all happy, and the teachers are all smiling. The other day when we left, we passed one of the older classes on their way back to their room. One of the girls, about 6 yrs old, squealed when she saw Sera, called her name, and came to give her a hug. Sera is always stopping at the different rooms to say bye, and the teachers come out to give her a high-five or a hug. They helped with her potty training and have helped her make so much progress with her letters and numbers. They do really great arts & crafts everyday, too. In fact, I want to go to Sera's school!
I've seen the following post in several places. I thought I'd do my part to pass the word around.
My daughter Lydia was adopted from Guangdong Province China on July 5, 2004. In August 2008, she was diagnosed with AML, a very pernicious and deadly form of leukemia.
With the help of her Chinese-born doctor, we were able to locate her birthparents and some of her siblings in China that her family kept. We know she had at least two sisters older than she (born somewhere between 1993 and 2002) who were also abandoned. The birthparents have refused to assist with her bone marrow transplant, even though two of her already found siblings were a match.
We are now looking for these other potential siblings to see if they were adopted and might also be a match. Lydia is part of the Hakka ethnic group, and so a match from someone other than a relative is unlikely because of her unique, almost bi-racial typing.
Lydia has classic Hakka features: "Brooke Shields" eyebrows, and rather full lips and a round face. I will have my husband post photos of Lydia and her birthfamily. I cannot do so at this time, because I am in the hospital with Lydia and the internet connection here is too slow and rather poor. Thank you for any assistance you may be able to lend.
I have found the cure for insomnia. It must be because it makes me fall asleep EVERY SINGLE DAY!
What is it, you ask? It's part of our daily routine. After dinner, Jim usually heads downstairs to read his email while Sera and I watch Blue's Clues and Max and Ruby. Right now, I'd say they are her two favorite shows. During these shows, we like to snuggle. I'll kick back in the recliner and Sera tucks in the crook of my arm. Her shows start, and I'm out. I don't fall into a deep sleep, but doze lightly. If she moves or asks a question, I respond. The rest of the hour, though, my feet are up, my head's tilted back, and I'm snuggling with a warm and sleepy toddler.
At 7 pm, daddy comes back upstairs and takes her for her bedtime routine, and I struggle awake to take care of my evening chores.
Now where is she when it's 11:00 pm on a Sunday night and my alarm is set for 5:00 am?
Last Friday marked the end of the first trimester of school. 1/3rd of the way down. It's amazing to me that we've hit this point, and it's still weeks to Thanksgiving. Monday morning I start all new classes with all new students. I have a clean slate again. And, more importantly, so do my students. The first year I taught we had semesters. The next year we switched to trimesters. I have had my issues with it, but now that I know it's my last year with them I realize I am going to miss some aspects of it. Next year we return to semesters. It's mainly a budget thing. The semester schedule will allow them to reduce teaching positions, if needed. But we won't go there.
I'm actually not sure where that first paragraph came from. As you can see from the title, my plan was to write about our weekend. It was a wonderful weekend, even though Sera was up at 5:30 and 6:00 am. I think she's given up sleeping in on the weekend. Yesterday, we headed out to the farmer's market. We walked around buying local farm fresh eggs, the last of the tomatoes, lots of peppers, a big bag of crimini mushrooms, and a bucket of Honey Crisp apples. We also snacked on some cherry gelato, a mini cannoli, and some sugar cookies. Yep, we got our sugar in for the day. Then we ran across the street to this great market that carries gourmet, organic, some really great prices on San Marzano canned tomatoes, and all the fun pasta shapes you can never find in the regular stores. Jim also found some awesome pasta salads there.
Believe it or not, then we went to lunch! Jim had a Dagwood. I had a turkey avocado, and we all had something I have not found locally anywhere else. Zapp's Potato Chips. Zapp's is a New Orleans company, and I love their chips. It's a toss up between their BBQ and the Cajun Crawtater as my favorite. I chose the Crawtater yesterday. When I opened them up, Sera wanted to try them. I warned her they were spicy. She very gingerly picked one up, looked at it, put it in her mouth and said yum. They have quite a kick to them, but she ate them up. I am constantly amazed at her palate.
One more quick stop for Jim to try on some shoes, and then we had a mini-meltdown as we had overrun nap time a bit. During the meltdown, I promised that we'd watch Cinderella and snuggle after her nap. Two hours later, I discovered that Cinderella is the one Disney movie we don't own. She was satisfied with Beauty and the Beast. It was so funny because after I started the movie, she came to me and said, "Mommy, I still tired. Want to snuggle." And we did.
Today, we had another milestone. We had our first birthday party invitation to Chuck E. Cheese. Sera was fascinated by the animatronics and did not cry when Chuck came out. In fact, at the very end just before he left, she gave him a high five. This was huge. She's always been terrified by anything in costume. Just a few weeks ago when we went to the farm, she wanted nothing to do with the person in the cow costume who was walking around. When we left, she was chanting Chuck E. Cheese and saying we should go again.
All in all, it was just two really lovely days with my two favorite people....and a huge list of things I still need to do and didn't touch. I don't regret not doing those chores at all.
Sera has many personas. Sometimes she's a kitty cat, sometimes she's Super Sera, sometimes she's Stinkerbelle, sometimes she's a monster, sometimes she's a big girl, and, especially lately, sometimes she's a baby.
She's very quick to tell us which one she is at any given moment. About two weeks ago, she started saying my baby daddy and my baby mommy when she means I'm daddy's baby or I'm mommy's baby. During these times, she likes to be cradled and have her sippy cup held for her. Since we didn't have enough time to give her this kind of attention, I have no problem holding her like my baby.
It's starting to go a little too far now though. After spending the day with some good friends* whose children love to call her baby Sera, she's now referring to herself that way. She's also claiming she can't do certain things anymore, like feed herself, because she's a baby. Don't get me wrong. I'm not blaming these other children. They love Sera and are used to her being the baby. They haven't really spent enough time with her to realize that she'll play with them now. That was until this last visit. She was right in there mixing it up, so to speak. To them, she is baby Sera, and I understand. Their mom was also correcting them when they called her that so I know it will correct itself over time.
I'm not worried about this phase as I know it's a phase. We're just trying to feel our way through figuring out how much babying is good and how much is not.
What I do now is tell her she'll always be my baby even though she's a big girl. We also heavily praise any big girl activities. She's not regressed as when she claims she can't do something, she'll laugh when we tell her she can...and then she does it. She's also still quite vehemently claims I do myself when she wants to show her independence.
This parenting thing can be challenging. Part of you wants to just do everything and spoil them rotten, but the other part knows that would actually be bad parenting. We want to raise her to be a strong, self-sufficient, confident woman.
*Don't freak, Laura! We know you all love Sera. Who knew she'd take that name and run with it?
Some of you may have noticed that I had a big Velveetaposting a few weeks ago. We enjoyed those leftovers for a few days. The soupiness factor was completely gone after being refrigerated. I finally used the last of the leftovers as a nacho topping. It was great. The recipe, however, didn't use all the Velveeta I had on hand. Last night, I was looking for some way to use it up and found this recipe.
My husband and his brother used to reminisce all the time about a meal their grandmother made them. They couldn't tell me anything about it except she called it shipwreck. A few years ago, I found this recipe online and made it for Jim. He took one bite and was in heaven. It was shipwreck. After all this time, shipwreck has been rediscovered. Now that I found the recipe again, I'll make this for him soon. Maybe even this weekend?
1 ½ lbs ground beef 1 onion, chopped 1 can tomato soup ½ can water ½ lb Velveeta 1 can low-sodium corn, drained 8 oz pasta, cooked and drained
Preheat oven to 350.
Brown the ground beef and onions, drain. Add next four ingredients and mix until cheese is melted. Stir in pasta.
Pour into casserole dish. Bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes.
Can I just say I love this show? I'm so happy it's back on.
The show got off to a great start last night. While sending someone home within the first 10 minutes, before they even got to unpack, was a little cruel, it certainly set a no-nonsense tone for the season.
The first challenge for the 17 contestants was to peel 15 apples using a paring knife. The first nine to finish to Tom's approval were safe. The remaining eight went on to the next challenge. This time they had to brunoise* two cups worth of the apples. Again to Tom's approval. The first four were safe. The remaining four then had 20 minutes to prepare a dish. The dish Tom liked least would go home.
The writing on the wall was there to let you know who was going home. It's the only one they did a backstory on during the segment. Lauren is a 24 year old married chef. Her husband is currently deployed. Within minutes of arriving, she found out that one of the other contestants was her good friend, Patrick. They were friends at the Culinary Institute of America, where Patrick, 21, is still a student. The mere fact they told us all of this within the first few minutes of the episode did not bode well for these two. Neither did the fact that they ended up in the bottom two of the quickfire.
In my opinion, they ended up there because they didn't cook. The other two grabbed a protein (pork and scallops) and prepared a dish. Both Lauren and Patrick made salads. Lauren ended up eliminated and the reunion was over before it even began.
The elimination challenge was also excellent. I had this whole review written in my head about the two who ended up in the bottom, and why I thought the right one went home. Then I went online and read Tom's blog about why they decided the way they did. He said everything I thought, but he was actually there and tasted the food. I was thrilled to see that my reasoning was right on target. On the other hand, his version has more credibility since he's an actual judge.
Be sure to catch one of the many repeats this week. I actually love that they show the episode multiple times. It's nice knowing that if I miss the Wednesday night premiere, I can always watch it on Thursday or over the weekend.
It's too early for me to pick a favorite yet as I like to watch them work and see their personalities. It does seem like they have some very talented people competing this season. I think it's going to be a fun ride!
*Brunoise is a method of food preparation in which the food item is first julienned and then turned 90° and diced again, producing cubes of a side length of about 3 mm on each side or less.
I love it. It's one night a month, usually a Tuesday. It started as a splinter from the local China Adoption Yahoo group's weekly playdate. Actually, I started it while we were waiting for Sera. I wasn't part of the play group yet, but those were the ladies who responded to my post and showed up. The first night we had about five of us. We've had as many as ten at a time and as few as two, but we're still going strong after two years.
Last night, I had dinner with two of the China moms who've been part of the MNO group from day one, one who has joined us the last few times, and one who is brand new. What's exciting about the last two ladies is that they've adopted from Viet Nam and Guatamala. It's nice to expand our horizons and hear how their experiences were the same and differed from ours.
I'll admit that I have to drag myself most times. It never fails that the day our group is meeting will be a horrendous day at work. I'm usually tired and ready to stay home. Yesterday had the added bonus of an extended faculty meeting after school, drizzling rain, and temps in the low 30s. I did cancel the errands I was going to run before meeting for dinner, but I went to the dinner.
And, as usual, I'm so glad I went. I always feel revived and rejuvenated. Sitting for a few hours enjoying a nice meal and chatting with women who are going through the same experiences is just fun. We talked in-laws and holidays and birthdays and potty training and sleep issues and it was wonderful.
Do you get out regularly for a night out with other moms?
Here is Sera's first official school picture. Actually, it's her first professional photographer picture, too. Jim gets such great shots that we've never actually taken her to a professional. We tried to schedule one once, but it never worked out. I love how they've gotten her to cross her arms like that.
I should scan in her class photo. It's hilarious. Only one little boy is smiling. The rest are just looking towards the camera. I forget how small she is because when she's running around with the other children, it isn't as obvious. It is in this picture though. Sera's sitting in the middle of the bench. The other children dwarf her, and her feet dangle much further from the floor.
We also had our first parent-teacher conference yesterday with Jim and I on the parent side of the table. Overall, the report is glowing. She's doing very well. The teacher gave us one paper that she had saved from the other day. She was just amazed and suggested we frame it. She had asked Sera to draw a circle in the middle of the paper. She said that Sera held the marker over the paper and made the motion as if she was picturing the circle. She then put the marker down and drew an almost perfect circle. The teacher then drew a horizontal and vertical line and Sera did an excellent job copying those as well. I credit this to all the hours she spends drawing with daddy. Jim is always drawing figures for her, and he always begins with a circle. She's been able to identify circles for a long time, but this is the best one she's ever drawn
We do have some things to work on, too. She's not very good at picking up her toys. I think I've spoiled her too much by picking up after she goes to bed. And she is very verbal, but there are still some times when she needs to use her words more. If someone is poking or annoying her, she whines. They're trying to get her to say stop instead. She'll also do that when she wants something sometimes. We've actually been working on those two things at home, too. It's good to see that we're all on the same page.
I was not a big fan of reality TV when it took off. In fact, I was quite vocally against it. I'd much rather watch a well-written series instead of the badly written (they do have screenwriters) overly dramatized series claiming to be "real".
Over the years, they've snuck up on me. First, it was American Idol. I hate the audition process where the main goal appears to involve humiliating as many people as possible. Once they've narrowed it down to their final group, I started watching. I missed the first year, but have seen it since. It's not must-see TV. If I'm doing something else, oh well, but I enjoy it.
Then I found Top Chef. I LOVE Top Chef, and cannot wait for the new season to begin on Wednesday. This was followed by Project Runway. Then to be really late on a bandwagon, I started watching Amazing Race last year. It's fun, but I mainly watch it because I'm doing laundry on Sunday evening, and there's nothing else I want to watch on. I was happy to see the catty divorceés come in last though. I consider that to be a karmic end.
The show that has really captured my attention recently, however, is The Chef Jeff Project on the Food Network. Chef Jeff is Jeff Henderson. He went to prison at the age of 24 for selling drugs. While in prison, he started working in the kitchen and found a love for cooking. After getting out of prison, he went to culinary school and then worked his way up the culinary ranks. He got out of that lifestyle because people helped him. He's now paying them back by reaching back and helping others.
He's chosen six young people who've had their share of problems. They've battled drug addictions, gangs, been to prison, or kicked out of their family homes. The main thing they all have in common is their desire to leave their past behind and get a new start.
This is an unusual "reality" show in that it's not a contest. They've already won. All they have to do to get a full scholarship to culinary school is make it through Chef Jeff's program. They've been responsible for catering events each week mixed in with some life lessons. You can see them growing, maturing, and making better choices.
I think what I like about the show is that those well balanced six -- three female, three male, two Hispanic, two African-American, and two Caucasian -- remind me of my students. I like that they're being taught how to come together as a team instead of competing to beat the other. I like that this show truly appears to be about giving someone a hand up and out. I'm not naive. I know that the show is about ratings and profit, but if it also helping six people who had been on the wrong path change their lives, then I can live with that.
Last night, I headed up to bed around 9:30ish. I wasn't planning to go to sleep yet, but soon. Laura had given us a big bag of hand-me-downs from Kira to Sera. They have been so generous in passing on Kira's clothes. I'd say Kira's clothes are easily 50% of Sera's wardrobe. Anyway, I watched the end of Without a Trace and sorted clothes. I then finished going through the last of our current stock of catalogs. The Christmas catalog invasion is in full force.
I still wasn't quite ready to sleep, so I started looking to see what was on TV. I wanted to find something to watch for about 30 minutes, an hour at most. It's so rare that I find any movie on our too many movie channels. In fact, I want to cancel them all. Our budget is too tight, and there's some room right there to cut. Okay, I keep losing focus here.
Starting at 10:00, I found a movie I actually wanted to see. I put it on thinking I'll see if I like the beginning, and then find out when else it's on to finish it later. I ended up watching Juno and didn't go to bed until 11:30. Whoa, Nelly!
Why was this a bad decision?
12:15 AM - Sera wakes crying. Goes back to sleep.
12:25 AM - Sera not really asleep. Making unhappy noises, but not really crying. Get up to go to bathroom planning on checking on her afterwards. Go to her door. It's quiet. Go back to bed.
12:40 AM - Crying starts again, but now includes calls for mommy. Get up go to her room, where she hands me her pillow, her blanket, and reaches up to be picked up. I put her pillow back, and take her and her blanket to the rocker. She immediately snuggles in and goes to sleep.
2:30 AM - Sera's sleeping, but she keeps trying to change position. Rather awkward when she's on top of me while I sit in the rocker/recliner. Realize that the super jumbo sized drink at the movie theater may not have been such a good idea.
2:40 AM - Give up on rocker. Sera gets upset when I try to put her down. I'm too tired to think right. I know that if I just put her back in the crib, she'll cry for about 20 seconds and fall asleep. All I can think of is must go to the bathroom, must go to sleep. Like a dingdong, I just bring her with me. We relocate to my bed.
Sleep fitfully as the 26 pound occupant of the bed manages to take up the most space.
6:00 AM - Mommy, want to go potty. Stomach hurts. Want to go potty.
6:02 AM - Knock on daddy's head like he's a door. When he responds, cheerfully make announcement about going potty. Everyone settles back down to sleep.
6:20 AM - Mommy, mommy! Want to go downstairs. Head downstairs. Turn on lights. Let dog out. Collapse on couch.
Yep, for the the third time since Sera came home, Jim and I went out for a few hours alone.
Sera went on a playdate with Kira and Sean, and Jim and I went to the movies. In a real theater. With stadium seating. Popcorn and pop. Just like regular people!
The movie we saw was hilarious and raunchy. I don't recommend it if you're easily offended, but it's also laugh out loud funny. We went to see the new Kevin Smith movie, Zach and Miri Make a Porno. The funny thing about his movies is that even though the humor is geared toward an adolescent male, he almost always has a sweet love story in there. Deep down inside, he's a romantic.
Welcome to the third annual Holiday Cooking, Blogger Style. I admit I was stumped when I first thought about what to post this year. In 2006, I posted what has become our standard holiday meal. In 2007, I posted recipes from what I consider the best holiday meal I've ever prepared. What to do this year?
I'm going to share with you my favorite pecan pie recipe. It doesn't hurt that it's really an easy pie to make, too. I also have a wonderful shrimp appetizer that my sister, Kati, brought to a family gathering, and, finally, I'm repeating a recipe. Mainly because I forgot I had already included it. It is really, really good, too.
Tequila Lime Shrimp
2 pounds shrimp
2 c julienned jicama
1/2 c vegetable oil
1/4 c tequila
1 T lime juice
1/3 c sugar
1/2 c chopped cilantro
3 or 4 jalapeno chiles, seeded, finely chopped
1 or 2 green onions, thinly sliced
Cover the shrimp with water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Boil until the shrimp turn pink; drain. Peel and devein the shrimp. Place the shrimp and jicama in a sealable plastic bag.Whisk the oil and tequila in a bowl. Whisk in the sugar. Stir in the cilantro, jalapenos, and green onions. Pour over the shrimp mixture and seal tightly. Marinate in the refrigerator 2 hours, turning occasionally.
Corn Maque Choux
6 ears of corn with the kernels cut off
2 T olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 c of diced tomatoes, or 1 can, drained
1 t salt (less if using canned corn and tomatoes)
¼ t cayenne pepper
½ c cream
If you are cutting off the kernels, cut down the cob twice. This releases extra liquid. Heat skillet with olive oil, and add onions, peppers, and corn. Season with salt and cayenne. Cook for approximately 15 minutes, and add tomatoes. Cook for an additional 15 minutes, or until corn is tender. Stir occasionally. Add cream and heat for a few additional minutes to warm through. Serve.
9-inch unbaked piecrust
1 c light corn syrup
1 c firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 c butter, melted
1/3 t salt
1 t vanilla
1 heaping c pecan halves
Heat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine corn syrup, sugar, eggs, butter, salt and vanilla; mix well. Pour filling into unbaked piecrust; sprinkle with pecan halves. Bake at 350 for 45 to 50 minutes or until center Is set. (Toothpick inserted in center will come out clean when pie is done.) Cool. If crust or pie appears to be getting too brown, cover with foil for remaining baking time. (If electric oven, may need to bake for 15-20 more minutes.)
It's that time of the year again. The holidays are just around the corner. Are you ready? We're excited this year because my dad and stepmother are coming to visit. The sad part (not really) is that I don't even have to adjust my Thanksgiving menu. We can easily accomodate two more people with our normal menu. I say normal because I don't think Jim would let me change a single dish on it. It might help if I made them more often. I always say I will, but he gets this meal only once or twice a year.
Overwhelmed is once again hosting her Holiday Cooking, Blogger Style. Be sure to visit her tomorrow to see all the wonderful recipes and post your own. Make sure you let me know you're posting, so I don't miss it.
On my sidebar, you'll see the link for the previous edition. It links to some really amazing recipes.
I know that is supposed to be a curse. And I get it. I've come to the point in my life that when something unusual happens, it's usually not good. I like my routine; I like the status quo on many things, but I also like to see progress.
I know many people are unhappy with the results of this election. I truly hope that everyone can come together and work to make our country an even better place. It's been fascinating watching this election cycle in an urban high school. This is only my second presidential election as a teacher. The last one didn't compare at all to this one in regards to capturing the attention of teenagers.
My students have been engaged. They watched the debates. They went to rallies. They asked questions. They volunteered as poll workers.
Yesterday, we held a mock election here. All 2nd period classes were assigned a state, and all staff were assigned to one state. As the government classes tabulated results throughout the day, the results appeared on a map that was viewed over the classroom TVs. Each state was colored red or blue as their electoral votes were calculated. By the last period, all states were colored in. I'm sure it will come as no surprise that Obama won the mock election. I was surprised that the only state here to go red was Georgia. This school is in a very red county and in a state that had not voted for a Democratic candidate in 44 years.
As you can imagine, we have some very happy students here today. We also have some very unhappy students. Just like the rest of the country.
For those of you celebrating, congratulations! For those of you mourning, take this bright note with you. The younger generation is engaged, active, and involved, and that can only be a good thing.
Here's a girl who loves her cheese and crackers. Believe it or not, that's horseradish cheese. It's one of Jim's favorites, and Sera's been sharing it with him since our first week home. One of our first stops in the days after returning home from China was to our butcher shop. They had just started carrying a horseradish cheese and were giving out samples. They gave one to Jim, who was holding Sera, she snatched it from him and shoved it in her mouth. Since she'd only had formula until she came to us, I was sure she'd spit it out. Not at all. She ate the cheese off the cracker and reached for more. I love how she's made sure there are plenty of crackers in the cheese just waiting for her.
When I looked at all the pictures Jim downloaded to my computer after our Saturday adventure, I found these two pictures. They're from about a week ago, and I thought they were just hysterical.
I don't remember why she was pouting, but I love this shot.
I'm really annoyed right now with AOL. Apparently they sent out an email saying that as of Nov. 1st, they were going to clear out images that had been uploaded. I, however, never got that email. And since I never go to their website, I missed any other messages that might have been posted. I've got to find a new place to upload my blog header and footer. I'm tired of this template though. I think it's time for a new look.
I've joined NaBloPoMo. November is National Blog Posting Month. To join all you have to do is sign up and commit to posting every day this month. I have absolutely no idea what I'll talk about it, but I'll try.
Every weekend this fall, we planned to go to a nearby farm that does a big fall extravaganza with hayrides, pony rides, mazes, petting zoo, etc... And every weekend, we didn't go. Someone was sick or hurt or it was raining. Out of the blue, about a week ago, Sera has become obsessed with riding a horse. Every day she would ask to ride a horse with daddy. The only time we've even tried to get her on a horse was at this farm last October. This morning I went online and found out that today was going to be their last day. We weren't sure they'd still be open, but they were so we jumped in the car and headed to Thistleberry.
The pictures are a little jumbled as some were on my camera and some were on Jim's. I'm too tired and it's too late for me to straighten them all out. I've posted a ton of pictures, but we took far, far more. I had such a hard time limiting myself as Jim got some beautiful shots.
If you are Sandra (#39), please email me or comment here. The email address you posted in the comment isn't working.
Random Integer Generator Here are your random numbers: 17 9 39 30 22 11 Timestamp: 2008-11-01 02:05:51 UTC
Colleen said... You're making me hungry.I can always use free cheese.
Annabelle said... Oh wow, that looks really yummy!!
traymona said... Like a true Sweet Potato Queen, I love ANYTHING made with cheese. And bacon. Can't forget the bacon, world's most perfect food. I could probably eat a cat turd if you covered it with cheese and bacon. Gawd, I hope I win this Velveeta prize. I'd be in a cheese coma in a week.
Kimberly said... They all look sooooooo good!!!!! I'm drooling all over my keyboard. LOL!!!!Thanks for a great giveaway! Cheese is always good!
amyd29 said... looks yummy,maybe I will make it this week!We love cheese!
Sandra said... Wow, great recipe. I would love to be entered.