Saturday, September 3, 2011

Thing A Week*

(*With a nod to Jonathan Coulton, who rocks. Seriously. Check him out.)

This time of year, I always get inspired to start something new. September is the start of a new school year at home and work (I work at a college, plus the orchestra season begins again in September) and my birthday falls in the last days of August. It has always been a time of turning over a new leaf for me. One year for my birthday, I was given a journal. I was never much for writing in it, except around my birthday. Each year, I would make a list of goals for the next year, as well as the next 5 years and next 10 years. (I'm a textbook Virgo.) It's interesting to go back and look at how I've changed (or not changed) over the years.

OK. It's been 2.5 weeks since I started this post. It is now 9/19/2011 and I'm finally getting around to what I wanted to say. This year, I want to make as much of my family's food from scratch as I can. As part of this project, I would like to try to make one new "thing a week". I plan to try to blog about each thing, but so far, that hasn't happened. I blame life. My life is such that I barely have time to try a new thing, let alone write about it. BUT! So far, I have made some new things. I will quickly list them here and hope to add more details in a later post.

Things I've now made from scratch that I'd never made before:
Pizza dough (I've now made this every week since. It is awesome.)

Pizza Sauce (I have an actual homemade jar in my fridge.)(Can't find the link!)

Birthday Cake (For myself)

Cake Frosting (Orange flavor. For above cake.)

Bread (The jury was out on the recipe. Trying again soon with a different one.)

Chicken Stew (Insert Home Simpson drooling sound here.)

That's six (6!) things and we are only in week 4. So! I think, given that I've been working overtime at the library due to no assistant, the start of school (at home and at work), and the fact that I've had emergency dental work and a cold in the last week, I'm off to a pretty good start. I'll try to dig up some more recipe links for these and will be better about keeping track of that. I'm looking forward to expanding my repertoire and maybe even getting my picky eater (I'm looking at you, Thing 1!) to try a few things. Here's to a yummy new year!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Homemade Spaghetti O's?! Heck Yeah!

I found the recipe here:

I made them this morning (I was up early. Thanks, Nate.) with ingredients I had on hand. Here is my adapted version. I scaled it to size and added more grownup flavor. My kids probably wouldn't touch it anyway, (well, maybe Nathan would) so I figured I'd make it to my liking. It tastes like Pizza-Pasta. Yum.

Makes 4 generous servings.

1 29 oz can of tomato sauce
2 cups water
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 cup small pasta (I used organic vegetable alphabet noodles.)
1/4 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheese (I used a pizza blend.)
1 tbsp butter (I used salted.)
Edited to add!: 1 tsp of sugar (to cut the acidity of the tomatoes.)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the tomato sauce, water, garlic, basil, and oregano in a 3 quart sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Stir in the pasta and cook according to directions on the package, stirring frequently. (Mine took 11 minutes and Hubby stirred the whole time. :)) Remove from heat and stir in milk, cheese, butter, and sugar. Salt and pepper to taste.

I'd add a picture, but I ate it already.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Custom Invitations. Cheap.

8.5x11 paper (As many sheets as guests.)

Themed stickers (we got a pack of 350 Cars stickers for $3 at iParty.)*

Business envelopes

1. Type up your invitation
2. Print
3. Decorate with stickers (A great job for the birthday kid!)
4. Stuff into envelopes

Voila! You have avoided the 8 invites for $4 that don't have room for your party's particulars and your kid has a cool invite that he or she helped make.

*Alternately, you could do clip art or use themed printer paper, but we don't have a color printer (or really any printer) right now. I printed 30 pages at work. Shhh!

Coming next...Custom Cake. Cheap. (But first, I have to actually do it.)

Custom Cake. Cheap.

1 Costco Cake $17.99
Specify "No Design" on the order form and they will make a plain white (or chocolate) frosted cake. You might want to hand your form directly to one of the bakery staff to make sure they know what you are talking about. For this cake, we had them write "Happy Birthday Harry" in red. It was white cake with white butter cream frosting and cheesecake mousse filling.

1 Package Cake Toppers $4
Harry wanted a "Cars" cake, so we got these.

Here's where things got tricky. He wanted Cars 2 characters and logos for his cake. I couldn't find any and I'm no cake decorator. I came up with two brainstorms.

1. Stickers. Buy your themed stickers, mount them on white paper plates and cut them out. Attach to toothpicks and stick them in the cake. I did this for the "World Grand Prix" logo he wanted, since we had one sticker with that on it.

I couldn't find Cars 2 character stickers at CVS, so I checked with greeting cards, just in case. Lo and behold, I found the perfect solution.

2. Greeting card with "pencil racers", $3. These are like little finger (or pencil) puppets that kids are supposed to put over a pencil while they do a maze. This card had six Cars 2 puppets. Score! I cut up some striped drinking straws and mounted the puppets.

The rest of the cake was decorated with red sugar left over from Christmas cookies. Harry got his Cars 2 cake for about $24. The cake was huge, a full sheet, so we have leftovers, but not an overwhelming amount. This cake served nearly 30 people. We put it in the freezer on Friday and took it out at noon on Saturday for a 2:00 party. It was thawed, but pleasantly cold by cake time, around 3:00. The only problem was a crack in the frosting that appeared as it thawed. I think it was on a slight slant in the freezer that caused it to crack when we switched surfaces. It was only seen briefly by the guests before cutting, so no big deal. The kids didn't care.

For comparison's sake, Nathan's Thomas the Tank Engine cake from Shaw's was half the size and cost $20. It didn't taste nearly as good and I don't think it was worth the price. I know I could make a cake from scratch and learn to decorate for real, but working full time and keeping up with the boys only allows so much time for extra curricular projects. This was stressful enough and it was a hit all around.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Happy Birthday Nathan James

Dear Nathan,

Today you turned two years old. It amazes me every day how you are both my baby and my little boy. The baby moments are getting to be few and far between, so I cherish them. It's mostly when you are tired or hurt. You come to me crying, "Mi-mio! Nursie!" and you snuggle in my arms just like you did the first moment you came into the world. Only, then you weren't all gangly arms and legs. Well, actually, at 9lb 11oz, 22 inches, you were, but you are so much bigger now. So tall and lean that the little baby roundness is almost gone. Some days, from behind, I mistake you for your big brother. You are very taken with him, but you are very much your own little person. You do your own thing your own way. It is so much fun to watch you play and learn. Here are some of your favorite things at age 2:

Woo-Woo! - Thomas the Train. That was your choice for your birthday cake and you ask me to sing the woo-woo song to you almost every night. You have a woo-woo shirt, jammies, flashlight (2), whistle and kaleidoscope. I know there's more, but you do like your woo-woo.

Outside - You love to be in the yard, rain or shine. Naked or clothed. Barefoot or shoes. You'd never come in, if we didn't make you.

Wa-wa - Water. I can only imagine what our water bills will be if we let you play with the hose as much as you want to this summer!

Diddy-dat - Our kitties. You love them. They fear you. You chase them, saying "Nice! Nice!" And so it goes.

Bubbles - Self explanatory.

You seem to love just about everything, so I'm having trouble pinpointing your favorites. At nighttime, you like to have your bear and sheep. We got you your own Twilight Turtle for your birthday so you won't have to share Harry's anymore. You talk so much we've stopped counting all your words. That is so much fun. It delights us every day to hear your voice. So we don't forget, here are your names for your family.

Nathan: Nay-nay. I forget who came up with this. I think it was Daddy. But this is what we all end up calling you and what you call yourself. I know it is silly, but it suits you. Sometimes we say Natie (Sweet Potatie!), but Nay-Nay comes out most often.

Mommy: Mi-Mio. You came up with this yourself. You started by calling me Mimi, but then when my mom came, you figured out that we call her Mimi. So, you called her Mimi and me Mi-Mio. You never seemed enamored by Mama, since Harry and Daddy say Mommy. Your name for me is so special. Only you can really use it. Daddy and Harry say it to be silly, but it is your name, not theirs. We like to turn it on you and call you Natie-O. (And Daddy-O and Harry-O)

Daddy: Dada. You are now learning to say "Daddy" but it comes out "Da-ee". That's OK. Don't grow up too fast.

Harry: Ra-Ra. You also came up with this yourself. We tried to get you to say "Ree-Ree" and you did, but you preferred "Ra-Ra". Not sure if it is supposed to be short for "Harry" or "Brother" but Harry likes it and so do you.

Mu-Mu: Mu-Mu. For a while, you used this for every cat. But now you do different names and say "diddy-dat!" Sometimes, when you're sleeping, Mu-Mu sleeps with you.

Carmen: Bar-Bar. Poor Bar-Bar is scared of you, but you love her. Sometimes she lets you pat her, if I'm close by.

I'll close, my sweet Nay-Nay, by saying I cannot believe it has been two years already. I know from watching your brother that this year brings even more changes. This time next year, we'll be enrolling you in preschool. *Sniff!* You and your brother are so sweet, so funny, so smart some days it just overwhelms me. I am really the luckiest Mi-mio in the whole world. Happy Birthday, Nathan-Bear.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Optimus Prime 2012!

The boys got new piggy banks last week (Thanks Mimi & Pop!) and they became enthralled by putting in money and taking it out. This is Nathan's first bank, so he was particularly excited. One night, after his bath, but while Harry was still in the tub, Nate and I sat on his floor and dumped out all the coins in order to put them back in. He was looking at all the coins and picked up a penny, showing me the Lincoln side.

"Guy," said Nathan
"That's former president Lincoln," I said.
"Link," said Nathan.

He picked up a quarter.

"Guy," said Nathan
"That's former president Washington," I said.
"Wash," said Nathan.
"These coins all have former presidents on them," I said. "Kennedy, Roosevelt, and Jefferson." (Yes, I talk to my almost two year old this way. I'm a geek.)

Harry called out from the tub across the hall, "Mommy? Why are there Transformer presidents? What do they transform into?"

"I don't know, Harry. What should they transform into?"

"Trucks, so they can do construction!"

I wonder if that would count as job creation?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Goodnight Nobody

Harry despises bedtime. He has never needed as much sleep as we mere mortals do. He could be falling down tired and would still insist he's wide awake and ready for a bike ride. I'm sure, if I think about it, that he's insisted he's not sleepy while actually sleeping. (Nathan, on the other hand will take you by the hand, lead you to his bedroom, weeping and saying "Night Night! Bed! Seeeep!" But I digress.)

So, at nearly 4 years old (how is THAT possible?), Harry still needs a lot of help making the transition from full throttle to passed out. (There is no in between.) That is my job. He will not accept Daddy at bedtime. (Nathan, on the other hand, who still nurses to sleep when I'm home for Pete's sake, will cry for about a minute and then let Daddy take him to bed and will go to sleep on his own. Nature, not nurture, I tell you!) Here's how it goes on a typical night.

7:00 Teeth! Potty! Drink of Water! Which will negate Potty!
7:05 Bargaining over books, while I give Nathan quick nursies.
7:10 Books. Just one! OK, two! That's it! No, you can't have water! Or toast! It's bedtime! No, we can't read it again!
7:20 After making sure all 3 nightlights are on and two stuffed kitty-cats and Curious Georges are on the bed, it's lights out.
7:21 Commence wiggling! Under the covers! Under the pillow! Over the covers! Stand on the bed! Marvel at the static electricity on your pajamas! Ignore Mom's repeated requests of, "Harry, on your pillow please!"
7:25 Wiggling settles into pillow area. Now, begin talking about your day, your week, any random thing you remember from two years ago (no kidding!) that you have saved up for "pillow talk". (And we were worried this kid would never speak. Heh.)
7:35 After Mommy insisting that "talking time is over" for the last 10 minutes, sit up suddenly and say "I smell toast! Can you get me some?" After refusal, discuss breakfast options.
7:40 Sing the "I Love you Song" (Yes, the one from Barney. He loves it. Shut up.) Restart the song after forgetting to include the stuffed kitties and Georges in the "great big hug and kiss from me to you". Then, ask for the "Bob the Builder" song. Shout the "Can We Fix It?" part at the top of your lungs.
7:45 Singing time is over. More wiggling. Turn pillow over to the cool side at least 3 times. Talk quietly to yourself and toss and turn. Hug and snuggle with Mommy. Start picking on her face and neck and back with your fingernails only to be stopped. Toss, turn, repeat.
7:55 Mommy sings some sort of lullaby. Hopefully one that doesn't elicit a million questions about the words.
8:00 Turtle's lights go out. Oh no! Lament the sudden darkness left by only having two nightlights!
8:05 Start to settle down. Yawn a few times. Ask random sleepy questions like, "What happened to the old McDonalds? Why did they build a new one?"
8:10-8:25 Fall asleep. Mommy sneaks out.

Last night, I was getting impatient with Harry's stalling techniques. I told him that big boys go to sleep on their own and that maybe Mommy should give him some room and let him go to sleep by himself. He said, "No, Mommy. Everything goes crazy when you leave."