Thursday, April 28, 2011

Making a Memory

The other day, I brought Raina with me to my Dad's grave to help clean up the Christmas decorations and plant some new spring flowers.  This isn't the first time she's been with me while we do this, though this is the first time she's been so much of a participant in the activities.   She loved shopping for flowers (new favorite word?  "PAY!"  Oh boy....).  She loved digging the dirt, filling the bucket with water, washing down the stone, and patting down the fresh soil around the flowers.  She loved the pack of wild turkeys roaming the cemetary (terrifying).  She had no idea what we were really doing.  I'm okay with that, because I know that soon enough, she will, and hopefully, she'll have these memories to look back on when she's older.

I never knew my Dad's parents, my paternal Grampa and Nana.  But I have the memories that I want my own daughter to have, of visiting this special place - planting and cleaning and telling stories.  I have fond and clear memories of going with my Dad to pick out flowers (usually red geraniums), driving to the cemetary (and always parking in the same place by the water spicket), filling buckets, washing the stone, planting fresh flowers.  My Dad wasn't necessarily one to tell stories of his youth, but at the cemetary they came out.  Stories of birthdays, of youthful hijinx, of things he remembered his parents saying or doing.  I never knew my Dad's parents, but because of these rituals, of these times spent at the cemetary, I felt in some small way that I DID know them.  If nothing else, I knew for sure that my Dad knew them.  That they were real, and in his memory always.  That he loved them.  I could tell by the way he took care of the stone that he cared for them.  That there was respect and love.  There were not many times when I felt like I could see through my Dad like this.

Raina will never know my Dad.  This makes me sad, and wistful, and (somehow) nostalgic for baseball card chewing gum.  All I can do is show her the same things my Dad showed me and my sister, by bringing her here and repeating what was such an imporant part of my childhood, even if I didn't know it at the time.  We will pick out flowers together (though probably not geraniums), usually at the same store I always went to with my Dad.  We will drive to the cemetary and park in the same spot.  We will fill, wash, plant, talk.  This is where she will get to know the man that I called Daddy.  This is where I will tell her stories, and this is where we will make memories. 

Our flowers, and and oldie of me modeling my Dad's fire helmet.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spring has sprung!

and we have the dirty fingernails to prove it!

Happy Dirt-Day to you,
Happy Dirt-Day to you!
Happy Dirt-Day to you-ooo,
Happy Dirt-Day to you!
and muddy moooooooooooore.........

This kid loves her some dirt!  She's going to be awfully sad this weekend when we plant veggies in her diggin' box and she can't go scrounging for worms anymore.  Sandbox time?  Here are some of Raina's top favorite things to do with dirt:
1.  Make dinner for Meow.  Soup or pudding?  You be the judge!
2.  Take it in handfuls from the planter to her playhouse and throw it through the windows.
3.  Use her Spongebob shovel to spread the dirt in a nice even layer on the steps.
4.  Pretend the dirt is a bandaid by dumping it on her forearm and yelling "Booboo!  Ouchie!"  When the booboo is better, she yells "happy!" then blows the dirt off her arm as if blowing out birthday candles.
5.  Wipe it on my pants.  Love it.  
To quote Oscar the Grouch, "I LOVE DIRT!"

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Recipe review: White Bean, Bacon, and Tomato Soup

I'm a sucker for soup.

My hubby found this soup on Jamie Oliver's "20 minute meal" app, one of the many (many) food related apps he has added to his Nook.  Should I be taking a hint here?  I'm trying to ignore it.  Anywho, I like Jamie Oliver, in general.  As much as you can like a person you've never met before, I suppose.  Last season we watched and enjoyed his show "Food Revolution," and are enjoying this season's adventures as well.  His recipes seem yummy and simple.

This one was picked out in yet another attempt at "meal planning," a concept we talk a lot about, but never actually get around to doing.  The subject usually comes up when it's been about a week since we've been grocery shopping last, and our meal choices seem to be centered around pasta or breakfast foods, yet again.  So he chose this from the "delicious soups" category, read me the ingredients, and I went shopping.  Celery, onion, garlic, cherry tomatoes, chicken broth, white beans, bacon, chives.  Easy peasy.  At the store, I buy:  a large package of celery, 3 onions, a bulb of garlic, 2 pints of cherry tomatoes, 2 boxes of chicken broth, 2 cans of white beans, a package of bacon, and a fairly large bunch of chives.

Two days later...

I find myself bored with FaceBook and JewelQuest at naptime, and decide to go give this soup a try.  COOKIES!  There are cookies in the kitchen!  OOH!  Cookies!  I get a little distracted.   Okay, soup.  For the first time, I look at the recipe, which is on the "nookie," my loving nickname for the little screen thingy with word games on it that goes to sleep and locks itself far too quickly for me.  I am shocked.  I will need the following for my soup, to feed 4:
1 stalk of celery  (1!!  1?!?!)
1 small onion
1 clove of garlic (I am suspicious of any recipe that calls for one lonely garlic clove)
4 ounces halved cherry tomatoes (I have no idea how much 4 ounces is, so I go with "most of the pint" as my measurement)
1 can white beans
1 quart chicken broth (which I decide means one box)
3 slices of bacon  (this sounds crazy.  I make it 4 and feel good about my decision)
small handfull of chives
glug of olive oil  (whatever you say, Mr.  Oliver...)
a hand pulser (naughty!)

So we begin, my small stash of ingredients and I.

I fry up my roughly chopped bacon, then spoon some some onto a plate for later.  Mr. Oliver suggests I keep my reserved bacon warm in the oven, but my oven is busy preheating for my peasant's treat - crescent rolls.  Yum!)
While the bacon fried, I busily shopped my "veg,"  the lonely foursome of celery, garlic, onion, and tomato.  Now that I have only half my bacon remaining in the pan, I add the veg, along with a "glug" of olive oil.  I channeled my inner Emeril and "glugged" away.  Measuring is for sissies!  The veg would continue to simmer for about 10 minutes, or until they were nice and soft but not mushy.  I "gave it a good old stir" once in a while to keep things even. 
In anither (far too large) pan, I got my broth simmering, and added the beans.  They simmered alongside the veg-party while I ransacked my cupboards for the hand pulser, and popped open my tube of crescent rolls.  The recipe advised me that this would be a good time to get my table looking respectable.  I should get out my cutlery and bowls, and set out sme nice drinks.  I pushed aside the playdoh tools, restacked the fruit bowl, and thought that should do it.  Respectable table and toddler don't go well together.
After roughly 10 minutes had passed (timing isn't the most important part of this recipe), the broth and beans got poured into the soft veg and bacon mixture.  It smelled good, and looked like it could even have been served like that.  But we were not done, oh no!!  We were not done. 
TIME TO HAND PULSE!  Woo-hoo!  After deciding that the low pan currently holding my soup was insufficient for the task ahead, I transferred everything back to the too-big pan and pulsed my heart out.  I left it slightly chunky for a rustic feel, which was the suggestion of the creator.

Verdict:  Delicious.  Seriously delicious.  Even more so when you are dunking crescent rolls in it.  Even Raina ate a fair amount of it (she is also now in love with crescent rolls).  We ate good sized bowls (Raina shared my bowl), and had enough left for one more.  It made more soup than I expected, and I was pleasantly surprised!

So there you have it... Jamie Oliver is the white wizard of Britain, created hearty portions of yummy soup out of what seemed like far too few ingredients.  We'll be making this again!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mom Confessions

Before Raina was born, I had spent a fair amount of time around kids.  My mom ran a home daycare, I babysat for years, and was a preschool teacher.  I figured I had seen enough to know what I was doing, at least most of the time.  The realities of having a baby (and then a toddler!) in my house 24/7 changed some things, though.  I know I am a great Mom, regardless of what others may think form time to time, and am making the best decisions for my family.  So here's a big fat PHOOEY to the lady at GAP who took one look at Raina helping me paw through the clearance rack and announced loudly and to no one in particular "I like it when MY kids sit in their stroller while I shop!"  Good for you, lady.  Here's a few other things I don't care about being judged for...
*I resort to bribery.  A tube of mini m&m's has saved my sanity more than once.  I'm also not against giving my kid toys to play with in the cart in Target, and then putting them all back in the health and beauty aisles.
*Those giant carts at the grocery store with cars on the front?  LOVE.  We would not make it past aisle 2 without them most times.
*Raina knows Dunkin Donuts by sight.  And Panera.  And Starbucks.  We like bagels and chocolate milk.  So what?
*YouTube is my friend. 
*Sometimes I let Raina play at the sink so I have a few minutes to stand next to her and read a People magazine while I drink my coffee.
*Popsicles?  A breakfast food.  They're made of fruit, right?
*Giving daily baths sounds like the worst thing ever to me.  Unless she's filthy, a few times a week is fine.
*I'm a short order cook.  Sometimes my family of 3 eats 3 different things for dinner.  Bananas, yogurt, and a string cheese count as meal options.
*I said I'd never buy a hot dog.  And I would definitely never mix it with mac and cheese.  My daughter thinks this is a gourmet feast, though, so now I stock up on weird little meat sticks.  Yum?
*I am able to step ovver piles of toys and clothes without even noticing them sometimes,  I can shut the door to the basement and immediately forget about any laundry that maight be hiding down there.  Beds are never made, counters are sometimes sticky for longer than I'd like to admit.  My day is all about having fun with my girl - housework can wait!

Yep, it's all true.  I had notions of being super housewife extroidinairre... but have learned that I'm content to just be me.  Laundry piles on the couch, pasta for dinner again, and one smiley happy girl in my arms!

Here we are at the playgound, not wearing coats and neglecting chores that need to be done at home!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Birthday Party plans

Last year, for Raina's first birthday party, here's a partial list of preparations I made:
1.  Narrow down a way-too-long list of possible places to celebrate, decide on a place that's not really convenient for anyone, but seems good anyway.
2.  Create handmade invitations, and mail them out to everyone I know.  End up spending waaaay more than expected, in time and money. 
3.  Make decorations.  Hundreds of them, all with a personal touch.
4.  Food.  Lots of food.  And make it all at home, by myself, while taking care of an almost-toddler.  This ended in TONS of leftovers.  I actually just threw out the remainder of the Costco sized box of Goldfish last month. 
5.  Bake a cake for Raina, and cupcakes for the rest of the party-goers.  Also crazy considering I was working 4 days a week then and had one day to accomplish all baking and cooking tasks.  Thanks GOODNESS for Auntie Karen!  She saved the day.)
6.  Find a special outfit for Raina to wear, head to toe
7.  Take the cupcake theme and run with it, scouring catalogs and websites to find every last perfect touch
8.  Research the best prices on helium tanks.  Seriously.
101.  Make lists.  Reorganize.  Make more lists.

Pictures?  I've got a few...

( the cupcakes... although they looked more like this in my daydreaming/wildest party planning imaginings...)

It was quite a production.  I've joked that I planned mre for Raina's first birthday party than I did for my wedding... and I'm only half joking!  (Or maybe even 25% joking)  It cost more than I expected, and it was a LOT of work.  Not that she wasn't totally and completely worth it... but for party #2, I was looking for a little less stress.

This year, my list was slightly shorter:
1.  Reserve indoor playground 4 minutes from our house

2.  Send email invites (from to immediate family, Raina's little friends, and a few of her other favorite peeps.

3.  Order a cake.  Broken stove = no homemade kitty cake.  (Okay, that ended up changing.  Stove got fixed the morning before the party, so I DID manage to make a kitty cake...  Even wothout an Auntie Karen to help this year!)

4.  Convince other people to bring snacks  ("Wouldn't it be fun to have an Edible Arrangement at Raina's party??")

5.  Make cat lollipops for favors (Raina's favorite part!)

We had a blast.  ...and I'm pretty sure the guests did, too!  :)

(and just in case you were wondering... both Raina's flower clippies and my flower pin came from this shop: Murdock Design on Etsy  I love her bright designs!)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Where have I been?! (and... a GIVEAWAY!)

I just looked at my calendar and realized how long it's been since I last posted.  OOPS!  Somehow it's April now, and I"m not really sure where the time has flown away to.  One thing's for sure, it's still COLD here!  Where has my spring gone???

I'd like a little more this, please:
 and  a lot less this:

So where HAVE I been?  Well, in short:  New Hampshire, Cape Cod, and the Zoo...

Oh, and buried in ribbon!

One of my most favorite bloggers, Jessica at Happy Together has been wonderfully kind enough to sponsor a hairbow giveaway from my Etsy shop.  Her blog gets, um, a little bit more traffic than mine... so it should reach a few more people than if I left it here!  :)  What are you waiting for?!  Go sign up to get a free hairbow!  Even if you aren't a winner, you can still get 20% off... check her post for the coupon code.

So, I promise I'll be back sooner this time.  I still haven't shown you my wonderful green St. Patrick's Day dinner (which my husband, uh, wasn't the hugest fan of!) or the picture from my little lady's 2nd birthday party!  Check back soon... I'll be a better friend this month for sure :)