Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Easy as Pie! Holiday Cooking

I'm sitting on the couch, holding a sleeping baby in my arms, and staring at the front covers of the magazines on our coffee table because it would be too much work to actually hold one and read it. Plus, even if I tried, Declan would wake up or the phone would ring or Eleanor would need help on the potty .... the interruption possibilities are endless.

Anyway, the front cover of the latest Cooking Light declares "Easy-as-Pie: Open House Menu." I think the title is a bit misleading because I read that article last week, and I'm pretty sure there's no pie involved. Surely there must be an unwritten rule of food writing that states you can't use common food expressions like "easy as pie" or "piece of cake" or "tougher than grandma's overdone turkey" unless said food is actually relevant to the topic. Otherwise, you just confuse people.

However, the topic of holiday cooking reminds me of the many Cooking Light recipes we've used and enjoyed since we moved into our house and actually started cooking for the holidays, 5 years ago. Here's some of our favorites:
  • Coconut Biscotti: a big change from most other sugary holiday cookies, and delicious dunked in hot tea!
  • Last year we made Rosemary Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Shallots for Thanksgiving, and they were a big hit. This was our first experience cooking with shallots, wherein we discovered that they are absolutely delicious and really freakin' expensive.
  • This year, we opted for a much sweeter (but still delicious) recipe in the Streuseled Sweet Potato Casserole. Another bonus with this one is that it's easy to make the day before and just bake on the big day.
  • My favorite, which I insist on making every year whether anyone else wants it or not, is the Cranberry, Cherry, and Walnut Chutney. Fresh cranberries are delicious!
  • Speaking of cranberries, for dessert last year Keith made the Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake. I think we may make it again this year. Especially now that we know it needs to chill for a day to set. Whoops!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Wheel Watcher

Starting with the night Declan was born, I've been finding myself in front of the TV during Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. We watched both in the delivery room while I was in labor, and I started pushing only moments after Final Jeopardy. I wish I could remember what the category was .... that's something for the baby book!

Anyway, it often seems to work out that I'm nursing Declan at some point between 7 and 8, and I tune into the game shows of my youth. A few observations:
  • Do you remember when Wheel of Fortune contestants had to choose prizes from these showcases? That would have sucked. To get one chair worth $800 that doesn't match anything else in your house .... the prizes have gotten a LOT better (read: cash).
  • I still don't understand why so many Wheel of Fortune contestants insist on buying every vowel. Keith argues that it's because they don't know what the answer is and they're trying to make their turn last longer and get some inspiration. I concede that's a logical interpretation, but often it just feels like they're trying to fill in the whole puzzle. Um, you do remember that you're PAYING for the vowels, right?
  • Was Alex Trebec always that much of a dick, or did that come with old age? Why does it always seem like he's mocking the contestants?
  • I would be a horrible Jeopardy contestant. I try to tell myself it's because it's all trivial knowledge, and I only fill my head with important information.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Missed Moments: Quiet Weekend

Several events happened in the past few weeks that I'd meant to blog about, but never got around to. There's no point in going back and trying to recapture everything since October 17, but I do want to mention a few of the most memorable moments.

We got home from the hospital on a Wednesday afternoon, and Keith's family visited in waves for pretty much the next week. It was nice to spend one-on-one time with each individual family, but it was also very busy. The visits ended the following Thursday, when Keith's parents left for a family wedding in New York City ... and took Eleanor with them.

When my mother-in-law first proposed taking Eleanor with them, on this 4-day trip, our first reaction was "No way!" It seemed crazy. How could she possibly survive without her mother and father for 4 days?!?

But the idea of getting a long weekend with just Keith and the baby and no distractions (Sorry Eleanor, but you are very distracting.) grew on me. Part of the sleep deprivation this time around is due to the fact that, no matter what time Declan falls asleep or how many times he wakes up, Eleanor will still be up by 7 or 7:30am. This is particularly offensive on the weekends. So we could get a long weekend of really, actually sleeping when the baby sleeps, instead of playing dress up and reading princess stories? I'M IN.

We gratefully took up Karen's kind offer, and it seemed like a wonderful idea ... until the car was loaded up on Thursday morning, Eleanor gave me a hug and kiss good-bye, and then she eagerly hopped into her carseat and was ready for the trip. Then I wanted to cry and grab her out of the car and run back inside with her. Keith held me back though, and they drove off.

Once they'd been gone for about 5 minutes, it seemed like a good idea again. The house was so quiet and peaceful. That day, we picked up the blocks and dress-up clothes and books ... and everything stayed put away. For days!

Even better, we had lots of time to watch Declan sleep, and talk about how adorably perfect his fingers and toes and nose are. We exclaimed over every facial expression he made, and picked him up immediately when he started crying--if we'd even put him down at all, which is doubtful. We got so much quality baby bonding time, which I would imagine is usually very rare for a second child.

To end this story happily ever after, the New York crew had a great time, too. Apparently Eleanor was on her best behavior for her grandparents, so they didn't get to enjoy the tantrums and meltdowns Keith and I are privy to on a regular basis. Ergo, everyone loved her and doted on her. Ergo, she also had a fabulous time and barely even missed us at all.

Yet, when she returned, I was never so happy to see her dress-up basket had exploded all over the living room floor. When I told her it was naptime and she shouted "No!" and stomped her feet and Declan started crying, I wanted to give her a big hug and a kiss. It was a wonderful weekend, but I was glad to have both my kids in the house again.

P.S. The picture is of Eleanor "dressing up" Declan while he sleeps in his carseat, by laying a dress on him and putting dress-up shoes next to his feet. It was the first time, but I'm sure it won't be the last!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Photo Challenge: A Finalist!

Keith has been participating in the Shutterboo Weekly Photo Challenge for a few years now. It's a great opportunity to improve his own photography skills and be inspired by the work of others, as well. Plus the deadline element is always a bonus incentive.

Last May, this is the picture that Keith took for the prompt "Red":
Then, a few months ago, we saw a flyer at our library about a local photo contest. Keith picked up a flyer and thought about entering the contest, but never did much about it. Contest entries were due by the end of October, and since October was a pretty busy month for us, I wanted to try and make sure Keith entered the contest before Declan's due date. (Ha! As if that date meant anything, in the end. Little did we know we still had another week of waiting around.)

I briefly considered just choosing one of Keith's photo on my own, printing and entering it, but what if I picked one that wasn't one of his favorites? Would he be disappointed? In the end, I told him I really thought he should enter, and also told him which of his Photo Challenge images I thought were the strongest.

So together, we chose the above picture of Eleanor. I got it printed and matted, and Keith dropped it off at the library. A few weeks later, we found out that Keith is one of the 10 finalists! I'm so glad that he entered the competition, and very proud of him for working to continually improve this new skill and having the confidence to enter the competition.

So just being a finalist is a "win" of sorts, especially since 5 of the 10 finalists get some sort of prize. But of course, we'd love for Keith's photo to officially be #1! Right now, an exhibit of the 10 finalists is traveling to all of the library branches, so patrons can vote on their favorite. Well, they've actually already been at the main branch and the University Heights branch.

This is the last week of voting, so if you live in the area, please stop by the Coventry library branch and vote for photo #3!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Posting Post Baby

Remember the pre-baby days, when I was so diligent about posting regularly? Ah, seems like so long ago!

Since October 13, I've posted one time, just to officially announce to the world that the baby had indeed been born. So 8 posts over two weeks, and 1 post in the following two weeks.

What is interesting to me, however, is why I haven't been posting. It's not the sleep deprivation or general business of taking care of a newborn and toddler. I've actually had a lot of help since coming home from the hospital. First, Keith was off for two weeks. As an added bonus, Keith's parents swung by and picked up Eleanor on their way to a family wedding in New York City the weekend after Declan was born, so from Thursday mid-morning through Sunday evening, it was just Keith, Declan, and me. I think we got dressed about 2 o'clock in the afternoon and put our pajamas back on again by 7 o'clock at night.

Since Keith went back to work yesterday, Keith's mom has been my significant other:) I think she's spent more time watching both kids at one time than I have! We've had people bringing us food, offering play dates for Eleanor, and buying us diapers. I had forgotten how helpful everyone is when a new baby arrives.

Of course, even with all the help in the world, it is still a lot of work. I'm breastfeeding, so right there that's several hours a day (and night) that no one can really help with. And Eleanor wants Mommy to read her stories and tuck her in and help her in the bathroom and just generally to pay attention to her. And I need to get some sleep and brush my hair every once in a while.

And yet, even though I've spent all this time talking about how time-consuming it is, I've realized over the past two weeks that lack of time isn't what's keeping me from posting. I've had many, many different ideas for blog posts in my mind, and I've started composing one or two .... but I never get past a sentence or so. We've sat and watched TV and movies for hours over the past two weeks, but I haven't written a blog post because I can't concentrate enough to actually write.

Maybe this shouldn't be such a surprise, but it has been to me. I assumed that, last time, I didn't blog because I didn't have the time. Eleanor and I had so many problems with breastfeeding that I was probably spending literally 19-20 hours a day trying to feed her or wake her up to feed her or pumping to increase my milk supply. Blogging was the last thing on my mind. Make that next-to-last; there was nothing happening in the bedroom except exhausted sleep and a crying baby.

So this time, with all of the help and easier breastfeeding, I thought that I would pick up blogging again with no problem. But I can't stay focused long enough to start and finish a blog post. Even this post, which is pretty long for me, seems to take a long time to get to the point. I find myself wondering, "Do I even need everything at the beginning? Shouldn't I revise it? Tighten it up? Get rid of unneeded material and craft a better intro?"

But there's no time or mental energy for the craft of composing. I am writing, and I am going to post this, but I'm afraid that it's not going to be my best post ever. Maybe I need to work on just posting something for now, and get back to the whole entire process of writing and revising and polishing later, as I start to settle into a routine and get more sleep.

It always comes back to more sleep.