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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Baby Time

I've been taking John to baby time at the library for the past few weeks. It is so fun. It is hilarious to watch all of the babies. There is quite a range from the bump-on-a-log newborns to the uber-sophisticated cruisers. John is, of course, on the big but less sophisticated end of the spectrum.

In fact, at first glance, John appears to be a lazy excuse for a baby. Since he is roughly the size of a first grader, people expect that he should be reading, writing his name, and holding forth on themes of social justice found in Sesame Street. Yet in reality he cannot even sit without assistance. (But he can roll with the best of them, I'll tell you what. I think the song Everywhere Man by Johnny Cash was written about John. ) Much smaller babies, babies the size of his thigh, can often crawl circles around him. But he's not lazy, he's just big. Therefore people assume he's older than he actually is. People always comment on his size. They often remark that he is so "healthy" which seems to be a euphemism for fat.

I am very thankful that he's growing so well! That is a sign of a healthy baby. The only downside is that I have the back of a 94 year old now that I've been schlepping around a huge sack of potatoes for 5 months.

Anyways, back to baby time. During baby time we sing songs and read books and dance, clap, tap and rock and what have you- all things that I had long given up in favor of other pursuits like college and full time employ. But really, baby time is so much more fun than either college or career and at times more intellectually stimulating. So I'm happy that I now have an excuse to attend. And it is nice to meet other mothers that live close to us.

Last week the leader went over some signs. I think I want to teach John some signs, if for no other reason, than because it's cute. We did signs for book, mommy and daddy. Does anyone know how to proceed in teaching him signs? Is there a method? Or do I just do them whenever I say the word and he'll pick up on it?

I need to teach him a variety of signs. I want him to be able to sign things like "Mother, I daresay this butternut squash puree is fit for a king!"

Does anyone know the sign for "daresay?"

(Sorry no pictures! I'm having problems with my card reader!)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fall Favorites: Update

So, I've made all the new recipes that I intended to try this Fall. Not that I wouldn't be open to trying any other new ones this season. In fact I've got on my mind this totally ridiculous Martha cake that I might try one of these days if I'm feeling just a little too sane. Martha's projects are always good for driving one to the edge of reason. But I've got to leave time to make the recipes that I already know I love, like Sweet Potato-Pecan Cupcakes!

Out of the several I've made this year, the one that stands out is this:

Caramel-Pecan-Pumpkin Bread Puddings

It was great and I would definitely make it again. I made it in a 9x13 in pan instead of in individual ramekins. Delicious!

Last night I made this Molasses Spice Cake. I had really high hopes for it. It was good, and people seemed to like it. But I wasn't feeling very well yesterday. My stomach was upset and I didn't have much of an appetite. So that may be the reason that I didn't like it as much as I thought I would. That and the Brown Sugar Glaze seemed to be too salty.

Now, I trust that you people know that if you come across any delicious fall-ish recipes, you best be sending them to me to try! Happy baking to you all!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Just call me a Martha Stewart-Bob Villa hybrid

Oh my gosh, isn't that funny? A Martha Stewart-Bob Villa hybrid? I'm making myself (and probably only myself) laugh.

In reality I am only a shadow of a wannabe regarding Martha Stewart and I am a handy man like Bob Villa as much as I am an octopus. But I've had some time recently to be crafty and also home-improvement-y.

I have been looking for lamps for our living room. On the day we moved in we were mopping in that room. It was getting dark so we went to turn on the light and found that there are no overhead lights in the living room! Surprise! At that time we possessed two lamps. When one of them started electrocuting Peter we threw it away and lamp hunting I went. I found this lamp at a consignment shop:


I liked the shape. But it needed some spicing up. So I decided I wanted to paint it fuchsia/magenta. I researched painting ceramic briefly on google and learned about Krylon spray paint. It will apparently stick to everything from liquid hot magma to your grandmother's Christmas jell-o salad.

I found some in the color that I wanted (Raspberry) and a few hours later I had (what I consider) a fun lamp that goes with our eclectic (read: free and used) decor:


I paired it with the lampshade that accompanied the old lamp. I love it. And Martha would be so proud. She's always encouraging people to find pieces of trash and convert them into Stunning Accent Pieces (jazz hands!) and the like.

Also, I installed 3 hooks. That's the Bob Villa in me. It might sound like an insignificant task to you but it required me to wield a drill which I don't recall ever having done before. I hung up a storage basket in John's room. And in the study/guest room I installed curtain hooks on either side of the window so that the curtains can be pulled back. Now that we've installed curtains on that window you will be able to avoid those pesky neighbors when you come visit.

Here is the view from the guest bedroom/study, across the atrium to the master bedroom pre-curtain hanging - yikes!

I also crocheted a few of these cute hats. I put one on John because it looks so cute when worn (I think). I love the huge flower. I intend to make John a manly hat for one of my next projects. Soon it will be cooling down ever so slightly and I don't want him to catch his death. Since we Texans are acclimatised to 100 degree summers, frostbite can afflict us in temperatures well above freezing. We can suffer from hypothermia in the 70's. Therefore, it's essential that we keep ourselves on the brink of heat stroke year round lest we freeze to death. Hence, the boy needs a hat. I'd better get on that.

I took up crocheting a few years ago. But I had trouble finishing projects because I would always choose things that were way above my skill level and/or time availability. So these days I'm working on small projects and have been able to finish several. Don't be surprised if you get a crocheted Christmas gift. (But do act surprised.) :o)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Peter's Birthday Cake

Yesterday was Peter's 28th birthday. We didn't have a party but I think that he felt sufficiently special and celebrated.

I made this flourless chocolate hazelnut cake for him. I tried the recipe for the first time last year for some company and he really liked it. So I surprised him with it yesterday. This is a good cake for a person who does not like his sweets to be overly sweet. Peter is such a person (no one is perfect ;o). And this recipe is good and sweet but not so sugary that you will want to throw up after you eat it.

I am on the opposite end of that sweets spectrum. I love that buttercream icing that takes you to a few glucose molecules short of a diabetic coma.

Note for the cake: the recipe calls for a hazelnut praline. I made it last year but it took some extra trouble and I didn't think that it added that much to the cake. So this year I omitted it with no untoward effects. Also, my oven seems to run extremely hot. The recipe says to bake the cake for 35 minutes but I only baked mine for 20 minutes and I think I should have taken it out even sooner. So, check on it early.

I am so sweet that it's barely legal. I violate sweetness restrictions in 42 states. The Big Sugar lobby is trying to come down hard on me because they just can't compete. My life is really hard.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What a difference five months makes!

My little baby is five months old today. And how far he has come! A few days ago Peter and I clicked through all 603 pictures we have taken of John since he was born. I can't even see this little helpless sugar lump in him anymore:


Quite honestly when I first laid eyes on him I did not think he was that cute. But he'd had it rough. It took him nearly 30 hours to get through that birth canal. He probably didn't think I looked that great either since I had to endure the same 30 hours of labor:


Here he is hours after birth, swollen face and all:



48 hours later he's looking considerably better and I began to think that I'd given birth to the cutest baby on the planet (if I do say so myself):


Notice his long luxurious hair! It is no more. Now it's more like peach fuzz in the front, party in the back:


Even though he was never really a small baby (8 lbs 10 oz at birth), he was so skinny! I remember being able to feel all of his little ribs and vertebrae:


Sometime around 2-3 months he exploded into rolls upon rolls of soft, squeezable baby flesh. If I didn't know better, I wouldn't even think he had ribs or vertebrae anymore:


He is so happy and smiley and easy going. He is rolling back and forth, grasping toys, putting everything in his mouth and drooling buckets. He is trying to get his legs underneath him when he's on his tummy. Unfortunately this usually results in his face planting into the carpet:


But he'll be up on hands and knees in the next few months, I'm sure. He loves to be in his bouncer or on the floor rolling around. He has started to laugh. Unfortunately, he quickly gets tired of our antics and his reaction progresses quickly from a giggle to a courtesy smile to blank stare. So we're constantly forced into more outrageous faces, voices and gesticulations. He is very much more distracted these days. He will not eat if the cats or Peter are in the room because he cannot tear his eyes off of them. They are way too interesting for him to bother with nursing.

We have moved him into his crib in his room at night. He goes to bed at 7 pm, wakes up once between 2 am-4 am to eat and sleeps again until 6:30 am or 7 am. He usually takes three naps per day and is awake about 2-2.5 hours before he needs another nap. Taking a nap every 2 hours. Doesn't that sound nice? Beyond nice, that's the stuff of my wildest dreams.


It's hard to believe it has only been 5 months! It feels like it has been forever (in a good way)!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Puddification

I consider myself both a wannabe foodie and cook. (I have very few actual skills or talents but many things to which I aspire...)

Since I got married I have journeyed on a veritable cooking odyssey. Seriously, if I were to pen a memoir about my adventure there is a good chance that 2,500 years from now high school students would be studying it in their literature class, much like they study Homer's story of Odysseus today. Not that I'm boasting about a Homeric writing prowess but the tale is certainly epic. Epic in the sense that when I began to cook I did not so much as know how to use a teaspoon. And like the Odyssey, it includes much wandering off course, beseeching of God to protect me (and those who would eat my food) from disasters, mistaken identities and even violent combat (like when I tried to quarter a chicken).

When Peter and I began dating in college he bought me a cookbook for Christmas. My response was a little haughty. I was all "what are you trying to tell me, homeboy?" (Just kidding, I never actually called Peter a homeboy but it sounded funny when I wrote that.) But soon I had picked out a few recipes to try and realized that I actually enjoyed preparing meals.

One surprise that I learned along the way was just how many things can be made from scratch and some of them quite simply. For example, pudding. Once I was looking for a recipe that required mint leaves because I had an abundance that I needed to use. I came across this recipe for chocolate-mint pudding.

Wait. What? I incredulously perused the recipe. You mean there are actually raw ingredients for pudding? And it can be concocted without the use of one of those packets from the grocery store? I guess I just thought that pudding was a 20th century invention of the Jell-o company and it never occurred to me that all of those figgy-pudding-making Dicken's characters probably didn't shop at H-E-B.

So I made the chocolate-mint pudding, which was delicious. But there are a few things that I have always struggled with as a cook. One is the thickening up of things- puddification, if you will. This process occurs in pudding but is also necessary for a variety of other culinary offerings. Saturday night I was making another pudding recipe for a cake (which turned out only mediocre so I don't really recommend it) and I was fretting over my thin pudding. So I googled "why won't my pudding thicken up?" (google, where would I be without you?) And I came across this article. It is hilarious. It is somewhat of a thesis on puddification and includes the tenets of pudding theory.

It is very funny so you should give it a read. But I learned a valuable nugget of knowledge that will help me in future cooking endeavors which is this:

When using thickeners such as corn starch or egg (of which pudding can contain both) they will remain liquid until just before the boiling temperature at which point they will rapidly thicken. When I was making my pudding Saturday night I was more concerned about it getting too hot as the recipe had cautioned not to let it boil. But reading that article made me realize that I needed more heat to get it to thicken. And it worked beautifully! This little bit of knowledge sheds a lot of light on problems I've had in the past. So, one more cooking lesson learned. With about 400 more years of experience I'll be a regular Julia Child.

Monday, October 11, 2010

You know you've had too little sleep when...

Last night I could not sleep. I was somehow both tired and wired. I could not calm my brain down enough to drift off to the land of nod. Don't you sometimes wish that your brain had an off switch? I finally was dozing off around 1 am when John woke up for his nightly snack. So then I came back to bed around 1:30. But I kept hearing noises. I thought the cats were in our room so I got up to search under the bed. By this time I'm feeling wired again. Finally I fall asleep at some unholy hour (after 2 am) knowing that my child will wake up at an equally unholy hour (between 6 am -7 am usually).

So I wake up this morning a wee bit bleary-eyed. I go to make my coffee. Then I go to pour myself a cup only to realize that something isn't quite right:


Yes. I forgot to add the coffee to the coffee. Methinks I should take a nap this day. (But meknows that is nothing more than a pipe dream.) That is one of the hardest things about motherhood so far- not being able to sleep when I want to sleep. Not that I could sleep when I wanted to sleep while I was working full time. Though at my job in SLC there were times when I would sneak off to the break room to take a nap when things were slow (and I was pregnant so no one hassled me). John, however, is oh-so-much-more (I'm really not sure that I used hyphens correctly there but I don't have time to clarify that on google at the moment...) demanding than a full time job and I cannot sneak off unbeknownst to him to catch some shut eye. But I wouldn't trade this job for anything. Despite the fatigue, I'm thankful that I get to nurse him every night and be greeted by his coos and smiles every morning. (Not everyone is so enthusiastic about seeing me first thing in the morning.) It won't always be this way and I keep telling myself to soak it up while it lasts. And I really am loving (most) every moment!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Theodore vs Godzilla's tiny cousin

A few weeks ago this little fellow took up residence in our atrium:

I first saw him poised on a vertical glass door all anti-gravity like. (How does he stay up there?) I have seen him (or her, my excuses small lizard for I cannot tell your gender) nearly everyday since. The first time I saw him I was struck by his diminutive rib cage. I gazed at him for a few moments observing his breathing movements. It made me think of how incredible all of God's creation is. That all of this little creature's vital organs can fit into such a tiny structure.

God created the mighty wale in whose rib cages I could dance a jig and he created this tiny reptile whose ribcage is smaller than my smallest finger. And so many creatures in between! It's all so imaginative!

God also created less marvelous creatures. Behold:



The marvel with Theodore is that he can repeatedly be outsmarted by a creature whose brain is smaller than a kernel of his cat food.



Theodore has diligently stalked this lizard for days, weeks even. Round and round the atrium he walks hissing and meowing threats. While his little prey is very bold on the other side of the glass.

Mr. Lizard is all "do your worst!"

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your point of view, at the end of this month Theodore is going to be a full-time outdoor cat who will be able to wreak havoc on the small, scurrying folks of the neighborhood to his heart's content.

We are giving our cats away. To my mother. They will live outside where they can prowl the outdoors like their forbears and hone all of their innate feline skills that are useless (or worse, destructive) in their urban lives. They'll be able to go inside every once in a while when my sister lets them in while my mother isn't home.

I never ever thought that I would be in this position. I have always had cats. When we got married and moved into an apartment where we couldn't have pets I pined for cats for years.

Then we moved to Salt Lake City into a duplex that did allow pets and we began the process of adopting cats. And what a process it was. We went to the humane society every night for weeks. The 1.5 hours that we had between the end of work and the closing of the shelter left little time for the intense deliberation that I required to make a decision. We would leave empty-handed to ponder over the felines. It was so hard to choose because so many of them were so sweet. I remember telling Peter that one of them was "tugging at my heart." To which he replied "what does that mean?" (Peter did not go into this with nearly the gravitas that I did.)

Despite all that deliberation, when we found Theodore and Penelope the decision was quite easy. They are fabulous cats. But. For some reason when we moved to Houston, maybe it has something to do with competing for attention with the baby, they started peeing on our furniture. I can put up with a lot from them. I can (and do) deal with their shedding, clawing the furniture, vomiting up hairballs, even peeing in the laundry (because at least I can wash the laundry thoroughly) but I cannot deal with cat urine on the furniture.

We like to have people over. It really throws a damper over the comfort factor in your home when you have to say "No! Don't sit there! There's fresh cat pee." This happened recently when we discovered cat urine on the love seat before we had our small group from church over (which was the second time in weeks that they have used the love seat as their litter box). Of course we couldn't subject our guests to the noisome aroma of cat urine for the duration of the evening. So Peter and I sat on the love seat. It was awesome.

So, there you have it. I hate to see them go because when they're not peeing everywhere they are delightful cats. But it turns out that even I have my limits. I think they will be happy at my mother's house. Outside cats are, I think, generally happier than their indoor counterparts because they get to do more cat things (clawing at trees, marking their territories, terrorizing small rodents etc...). But they can have more health issues because they are exposed to more germs and other animals. It's a trade off.

If you were reading this blog in the summer of 2009 you might remember when we got our first cat in SLC, Bluebonnet. We were obliged to return her to her foster mom after she peed everywhere in our duplex unbeknownst to us. And now we are giving these cats away for the same reasons. Given this record, I believe I am done in the cat business.

What will become of me? If I'm not a cat person what am I? I'll definitely have the time to do some soul searching on that topic since I will no longer be waging a constant war against the marauding bands of cat hair.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

A good day

Today was a wonderful day. Peter is on a light rotation this month so we have gotten used to having him around again! He has his weekends off so today we took advantage of the nice weather to go to the park.

But first we woke up and took some pictures of John:



Then we got ready to go to the park and took more pictures of John:


Then we rode the train around Hermann park while taking more pictures of John:


Do you notice a theme?

Unfortunately there were no pictures taken in the afternoon after our park trip. John missed one of his naps during the day so he was grumpy something fierce in the evening!

Also, we went to a place called Smash Burger for lunch. It was delicious. They had these sweet potato fries with olive oil, rosemary and salt. Delectable! I'm going to try to make some at home. Anyways, if you live in the area (or maybe there are Smash Burgers in other cities?) I would recommend trying it if you're in the mood for a burger place.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Thank you Grandma Hanson!

Oh you guys! The weather here. It is nice. Days like this are the reason people live in Texas. It's dry, the highs are in the 70's. This morning there was even a chill in the air. After John peed through is onesie during his first nap, I even dressed him in long sleeves! It is a gorgeous day. But that's not why I'm writing.

I've mentioned before that a lot of our furniture was given to us by Peter's Grandmother, Darlene. I was told that she reads this blog so I wanted to post something to show her how appreciative we are. We especially love the dining room table. It has three leaves so it can expand to seat 8. We've been hosting a small group from church at our house every other week. We all eat dinner together and everyone loves the table:

They are holding signs that say "Thank you Grandma Hanson." But you might not be able to see that unless you enlarge the picture. Also, you can't see the sign I'm holding. It says " We love Grandma Hanson."

John was already in bed last night when we took the picture so I wanted to get him in on the photo op.


He was a little unclear on the concept.

Thank you Grandma Hanson, we hope to see you soon!

And now, just because I can, here are more pictures of John boy:

People tell me that he looks like me. I'm wondering, if I look even a smidge like that, why haven't I gotten any supermodel contracts? Because I must be the second cutest person in the world (behind John, of course).

Teething? I don't think so yet. But definitely chewing on everything.