Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Scrumptious Asparagus

Oooh la la...I love asparagus. I nearly always roast it, but decided I needed to try something new today. I played around with some ingredients I had onhand, and truthfully, am quite pleased with the results. My kids, who are merely asparagus tolerators even gave it two thumbs up.

Scrumptious Asparagus
1 bunch asparagus, sliced into 1" pieces (skinny asparagus - none of the thick stuff)
1/4 c. red onion, diced
1 tsp. olive oil
1/3 c. sundried tomatoes, packed in olive oil, and chopped
1/4 c. feta cheese
1 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper

Heat oil in skillet. Add asparagus, onion, and tomatoes. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is soft and asparagus slightly brown. Add 1/4 c. water to skillet, cover, and cook until asparagus is done (around 4 minutes?). Remove lid, and add feta and basil, plus salt and pepper to taste. Toasted pine nuts would also be really tasty, I would think...but I was out of those. Let me know if you try it with them, and if you think it works!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Coping

Been thinking about some of my overlooked blessings lately. I just finished a book (true story) about a group of sailors on a whale boat in the early 1800’s who had their ship sunk by a whale and ended up floating for their lives on the Pacific for close to three months. As I tend to curse my lot when I feel challenged, I think it noteworthy to acknowledge that despite of what else might happen, I am not:

  • On a whale boat voyage, away from my family for 2-3 years. Sure, John might be gone a lot, and come home mostly to sleep…but we can gaze upon him lovingly as he snores, and know he (and we) is/are safe.
  • Severely dehydrated. My tongue is not swollen so that I can’t speak (though some might wish it were: my children), my eyes are not bulging in their sockets, and I can sweat.
  • Starving. I am not literally skin and bones, nor suffering from intense edema. I have energy to clean toilets and make lunch.
  • Eating people. ‘Nough said about that.
  • Fat-free. If someone found it necessary to eat me to survive, it is comforting to know that as I am not starving, there is plenty of fat in my muscles which would provide significant nutrition to benefit my friend.

Lest you misunderstand, I am not so pathetic as to see no blessings in my life aside from the above. I see the hand of the Lord now, more profoundly than normal. I truly am filled with gratitude. However, I’m also impatient, and would like to see the neatly wrapped gift answering all my prayers at once, and get discouraged when the tidy solution is less imminent than I consider ideal…but that doesn’t mean I’m entirely faithless and ungrateful - just human and learning.

Silly as it might be, however, I admit to finding comfort knowing it could be much worse. My reading list is filled with tragedies. Horribly depressing – and yet quite reassuring. Twisted? Definitely. Now, off to read on the international sex trade, and then maybe watch “Whale Wars.”

Blessed, indeed.

What about you? Any coping mechanisms to pass along?

Monday, February 21, 2011

If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say...

...

Life is a bit chaotic lately. You know that quote about watching a person in adversity to see their true character? I think that's a dumb quote. I spend as much time as possible HIDING my true cynnical and grumpy character - and when it is more transparent as I struggle through challenges, I would really appreciate if people DID NOT stare. Who came up with that great idea? Apparently someone at the END of their trials.

Not to say that things are bad over here. I'm feeling pretty blessed overall, though struggling to stay positive with my house on the market, an imminent move to a new city, changes in plans (though small, this is NOT a good time for deviation!), a significant financial hit, a barely there or awake husband, and an assertive two year old. I feel very watched over - but also very tired and quite overwhelmed. It's leaving me snappy with the kids, and a bit (translate: a LOT) neurotic about keeping the house spotless at every moment (when feeling stressed, I turn into even more of a mega-control freak - it's not pretty). I've found my tidy standards challenging to uphold, which makes me grouchier. Argh!

I think I'll go to bed now so tomorrow I will have a greater desire to work on that bit about not saying anything at all.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Warm Dinner for a Snowy Night

It's not actually snowing. Technically, we just have flurries, but "warm dinner for flurries" sounded dumb. That, plus, I'm sure this would still be a perfect meal if it were snowing, which it's not.

Now that we are clear on the facts, here's what we had for dinner. You should try it, too: Kale, Lentil & Sausage Soup and the world's best breadsticks. Tasty, and very healthy, too.

Do you regularly eat kale? If not, you should start, because it's so good for you. I looked it up, and this is what I learned:

  • Kale reduces your risk of cancer, specifically cancers of the bladder, breast, colon, ovary, and prostate.
  • Kale is key in your body's natural detoxification efforts.
  • Kale helps your body avoid chronic inflamation and oxidative stress. I'm not sure what oxidative stress is, but it sounds bad, so I'm glad to be avoiding it.
  • Kale is one of the healthiest vegetables around. It is off-the-charts high in vitamins K and A, and has nearly 90% your daily dosage of vitamin C. Pretty impressive. That, plus it is high in manganese, calcium, fiber, and iron, and some other stuff, too.
  • Kale has cholesterol lowering properties.

If you don't really care about the health benefits, that's fine, too, because you can still enjoy the soup purely from a tasty standpoint. Here's the recipie.

Kale, Lentil, and Sausage Soup (from Everyday Living)
2 tsp. olive oil
8 oz. hot italian sausage
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 medium, yellow onion, chopped
1/2 c. lentils
6 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. water
1/2 lb. kale, stems removed, leaves broken up
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Brown sausage in hot oil. Add celery and onion, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add lentils, broth, and water. Bring to a boil, then partly cover, reduce heat, and cook until lentils are tender (about 25 minutes). Add kale, and cook until it wilts, about 5 minutes. Add vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. I also like to top it with parmesean cheese...

You should try the breadsticks, too, even though they don't offer the health benefits of kale. Or of anything else, really...except they're really, really good.


Best-Ever Breadsticks (from my kitchen cafe)
1 1/2 c. warm water
1 T. yeast
2 T. sugar
3 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
3 T. butter, melted

Mix all ingredients (except melted butter) in a large bowl or electric mixer and knead for three minutes. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spread melted butter onto an 11X17-inch baking sheet. Roll out the breadstick dough about 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick and cut into strips with a pizza cutter. Twist slightly if desired and place about 1/2-inch apart on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with garlic salt, herbs of choice (I vary this depending on my mood but it usually consists of rosemary, basil, or thyme in some form and crushed finely) and parmesan cheese. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise 30 minutes. Bake 15-20 minutes at 375 degrees until golden brown.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Second "B"

"B" is for Bunkbeds.

Bug and Lu share a bedroom. When Bug outgrew the crib three years ago, I was excited for the next step: a bunkbed.

I had a bunkbed growing up. It was super fun. I slept on the top. I would hang my head over the side and talk with my little brother. We found all different ways to get on (and off) the top bunk, very few of which involved the ladder. Some methods were safer than others, but we lived to adulthood, so all's well there. We had lots of room to play on the floor, since it was unencumbered by an extra bed. We set up Playmobile villages. Life was beautiful.

Clearly, a bunkbed was a great idea for my own daughters, if not an important childhood rite. Not to mention, all my friends' kids had bunkbeds. Now, if all my friends told me to jump off a bridge, I wouldn't. Really. But knowing my intelligent, helpful, and more experienced friends also took the double-decker bed route, helped the decision to be even more of a no-brainer: everyone was doing it.

Friends - why didn't you tell me?
Bunkbeds stink.

There are a few fundamental flaws of bunkbeds which no one felt necessary to mention:
  1. They are heavy and hard to move. It's worse if they're on top of carpet. If you ever want your kids to clean under the bed, you might be out of luck. They'll get some of it. Maybe even most of it. But they will never get it all.
  2. Mattresses. Bunkbeds don't fit normal mattresses. Sure, you can get them onto the bed, but if you would like your child to have sheets on the bed, dream on. The fit is so blasted tight that your fingers lose circulation trying to make the bed. Of course, this is not a problem if you don't make the bed...but as you know by now, I consider an unmade bed pure torture - and would feel abusive as a parent to not insist upon the luxury of a made bed for my children (of course, they're responsible for actually doing the making...someday they'll thank me). So, you pick - buy a "bunky board" mattress and add it to your growing collection, along with their crib mattress and future twin or full-size, or do you just feel the pain each time you try to sheet the bed?
  3. Speaking of making the bed: the whining. Every. Day. Because it's hard to make a bed with railings on the side. It would almost be better to let them roll out a few times and break an arm or two, than to deal with the constant whining. I said almost.
  4. They are dangerous. Okay, no personal experience with this one - except for seeing stars after being knocked upside the head after climbing up to the top bunk for something and forgetting to turn of the ceiling fan - but I'm in the mood to find faults, and 'people' have said it, so I'll add it to the list.
  5. But here's the real kicker: changing the sheets. Those of you who knew me when I was pregnant with #3 are aware that I was literally stuck, lying on my back, under the bottom bunk when trying to change the sheets, at 37 weeks pregnant. That's a whole other story, but nearly 2 1/2 years later, I still haven't recovered from the terror of wondering if I would give birth all alone under a bed with no one to hear my cries. I am not pregnant, but continue to dread changing the sheets. That's Tuesday's chore, by the way. I am nearly always grumpy on Tuesdays, and I doubt it's a coincidence. If not lying under the bottom bed, trying to yank sheets under, then I've found it necessary to balance the bunk bed on my head while pulling sheets underneath. I am grateful for the strength of my neck, and yet, I fear it might snap sometime. Bunkbeds are dangerous beasts, I tell you.

So now you know: bunkbeds are NOT the innocent space-saving, happy furniture they appear. My condolences if you have one already. And if not...you are very lucky to have read this post.

I think that's enough now.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Secrets of "B's", Part 1

In the information-era in which we live, it's rare to truly be surprised anymore. Seriously - how many times have you really been taken aback, thinking, "I had no idea"? I can think of only two instances in my life in which I felt over-whelmingly neglectfully uninformed of what I was getting into, and they both start with "b." In the interest of full-disclosure, I think someone, somewhere, needs to tell the real stories, because I can honestly say that I was not prepared for either one. It would have been nice for someone to tell me, before the fact, "I know what you've decided to do. There are many good reasons for your decision. But be prepared for the brutal reality about to set in." I would have appreciated it. I really would have. But no one told me. Did they tell you?

My First "B": Breastfeeding
I'll preface by saying that I have three children, all of whom were breastfed exclusively for 6+ months. I'm glad I did it. I think it's a good thing. I'd do it again (...but won't, because that would mean another child - have you met my youngest? She has taught me to recognize my limits: her). There are lots of nice articles about the benefits of breastfeeding. I'm not going to mention those benefits, because you already know all about them. If you didn't learn them in your high school health class, surely you've had the lesson with your OB-GYN, pediatrician, mom's club, or stranger at the park. I totally agree: said benefits make it worth it. But...it seems to me, there's a conspiracy of sorts out there in which no one dares tell you the other side:
  1. It's not natural. The milk might be, but the experience will not come naturally to you or to your child. It is something awkward and must be learned by mom and baby both. Your child might refuse to open their mouth. Or scream, or sleep - through each attempt. You will find the position awkward at best, at least initially, and your shoulders and neck muscles will throb. It does not begin as the picturesque scene of tranquil ease depicted in parenting magazines.
  2. It hurts. A lot. Thankfully, it gets a lot better as time goes on, but the first few weeks can be brutal. You might bleed, and then stick to your bra as the blood dries, finally tearing off the scab when you try to feed again. And then there's the uterine cramps. I labored stoically with three kids sans medication, but I cried when nursing.
  3. It's work. It will make you tired. It will make you thirsty (can't imagine being more parched on the Kalahari).
  4. If you don't show up for work, there's hell to pay. You might pay off the baby with a bottle, but you will lament the decision for the next 2 hours, unable to raise your arms/ elbows more than an inch, until you come to your senses and relieve the pressure, begging your baby to eat way more than she's actually hungry for, which results in volumnous, projectile spit-up - but you'll feel better, so it's worth it.
  5. Breast infections. I'd rather have ingrown toenails.
  6. Milk. Everywhere. In the shower. In your bed. Squirting across the room. Spraying your baby in the face like a sprinkler on steroids. Dripping down your shirt. When you cry, when you laugh, when you sleep, when you...you know. Embarrassing.

This is all sounding very traumatic, and I didn't even go into the emotional/mental stress of constantly thinking you're probably starving your kid. I'm wondering if it was really that bad? Is my representation accurate? Thinking... Kind of. It's like childbirth - it hurts, it's hard, but you get something pretty great out of it in the end, which makes it all worth it, at least it did for me. But, unlike childbirth, for which you prepare for months with classes, books, and showers - the hard part of breastfeeding seems to go undiscussed until after the baby is born and new moms are in tears. Then, all of a sudden, everyone groans and says, "Oh, yea - I remember that!" at which point they wince and cross their arms over their chests. Shouldn't we be clueing each other in?

So what do you think? Were you prepared? Was I the only one with my head in the sand when this information was disseminated? Or is that the responsibility of a sister (curse the fact I only have brothers)? Am I the only one to wince at the memories? Funny, now...almost, but not really. Pondering how to incorporate this wisdom into general knowledge... :)

Stay tuned for my next "B": Bunkbeds (shudder)...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Search for Happiness

I read somewhere a couple weeks ago that people report greater happiness when their thermostats are set to 66 degrees overnight. No joke: the secret to happiness resides in your thermostat. Not one to overlook an opportunity for happiness, I immediately reset my thermostat. For the past two weeks, I report that I have felt chilly. I have slept, huddled in a ball, shivering. I'm not sure if I'm extra happy, or not, because I'm awake most of the night trying to warm up - which makes me groggy all day. I'm afraid the study might be flawed.

You might be aware that I have, what some people (John) may call "bed issues." In order to sleep well, the following must be strictly adhered to:
  1. The bed must be made before climbing in, even if that means making the bed at 10:30pm.
  2. The sheets must be aligned straight in the bed. All. Night. Long. The whole bed, not just my side.
  3. There must be just the right balance of sheet/blanket weight on the bed. There is no scientific formula to determine this weight - I alone know the right balance.
  4. Jersey sheets are not permitted, as they are not sleep conducive. They stretch.
  5. Fleece sheets are not permitted either. They bunch.
  6. No touching when sleeping. There are four corners to a bed. Pick one and stay there.

As I mentioned earlier, I have been rather cold lately, in my quest for happiness. As you can see from rules 3, 4, 5, and 6, there are several impediments that can make it difficult to stay warm. But - I am happy to report, I found the solution at Costco yesterday. My thermostat is still set at 66, but I am now sleeping warm and cozy all night long.

ODE TO FLANNEL SHEETS
Cozy, warm, pilling
I love my flannel sheet
My feet don't freeze
My hands aren't numb
A sleep inducing treat

Gentle luxury surrounds
Under and over me, too
Rules no more
Chill-zones be gone
At last, happiness is true.

I'll report back and let you know how my happiness grows now that my thermostat is properly set and I have my flannel sheets. I'm anticipating greatness. What about you - what makes you happy?