Owen vs. the chocolate chip muffin
Owen vs. the hand soap
Mia and Owen stage a sit-in on the walk home from school
Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you be my poem, I whisper with my lips close to your ear.
- Walt Whitman
I want to get a pet duck and keep it in the bathtub.
I am addicted to chap stick
and altoids. I am freakishly flexible.
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Owen vs. the chocolate chip muffin
Owen vs. the hand soap
Mia and Owen stage a sit-in on the walk home from school
That title would sound so much better if I still had a gas stove, yes? Anyway, here's some of what I've cooked the past two weeks. Comment or email me if you want recipes.
Mexicali Stew - a lot like chili, but not quite and not very spicy.
Cuban Black Bean Soup - I make this a lot because 1) I make it in the crock pot, 2) it makes enough to freeze half and get a free dinner down the road, and 3) Owen loves it, which always surprises me because it is really spicy. Recipe is here, if you want it.
Fajitas - Another stand-by. My version is zucchini, yellow squash, red pepper, red onion and corn marinated in oil, cumin, chili powder, oregano, and lime juice.
Spaghetti - Still haven't gotten around to (always) making my own spaghetti sauce. This time we used organic, whole wheat Trader Joe's rotini, which was really good and doesn't taste like whole wheat at all (cannot say the same about the penne), and a jar of organic Trader Joe's spaghetti sauce, which was also good, but I did add onion and zucchini.
Eggplant and Zucchini Bake - Chris isn't a huge eggplant fan, but he does sometimes like it depending how it was cooked, so I tried this and it was good. Very simple - just grease a 9 inch baking dish and then add a layer of eggplant slices, a layer of marinara sauce, layer of mozzarella and a layer of zucchini slices. Repeat until you run out of ingredients or the dish is full and end with sauce and cheese layers.
Cabbage and Mushroom Curry - Halfway through cooking this I warned Chris that we would probably be ordering a pizza for dinner, but it was actually really good. Very spicy, and Owen ate half of mine and then demanded his own bowl.
Tamale Pie - We even got Mia to eat a little bit of this one. Sauteed onion, kidney beans, tomato and cubed tofu with chili-type spices in a baking dish with corn muffin batter on top and bake for 20 minutes.
Minestrone - Another thing we eat a lot, because Chris likes it. Super easy - can of tomatoes, can of kidney beans, a zucchini, whatever bag of frozen mixed veggies you have in the freezer, leftover pasta from the fridge, and some broth or water. Made all the better this week because Chris cooked it since I had been out all afternoon with the kids.
Now, wish me luck this week, you guys. I made a fairly ambitious (for me) meal plan including lasagna and my maiden attempts at both pho and pesto and it was only after I had chosen all the recipes and gone through the fridge and pantry and made the shopping list that Chris informed me that his schedule this week will include getting home 30 minutes after we usually have dinner every night. So I get to cook all these things with a two-year-old on one hip and a four-year-old on the other. Honestly, I don't understand how the Leave it to Beaver-esque women did it when they were expected to keep the children fed and clean and alive and entertained and also clean the house and cook all the meals and bake bread and cookies and brush their hair more than occasionally. Boggles my mind.
So, I know I owe you guys a post on why I asked about your grocery budget. Sorry it has taken me so long, but I went straight down the rabbit hole in my own head and haven't quite gotten out yet. But you were all so kind to tell me, and honestly I am so fascinated and intrigued by your comments that I keep going back to re-read them.
Here's the thing. Chris and I watched Food, Inc. a couple of weeks ago, and man but that movie was horrifying. I have never in my life been so glad to be a vegetarian as I was watching that movie. I could barely even sit through it. And it got me thinking: we are already vegetarian and I already avoid most processed foods and have already declared war on high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils and the children already get only organic milk and yogurt and eggs, but I can do better. I want to do better. I can buy organic butter and cheese too, even though the prices make me weep in pain. I can buy more organic produce, I can cook more, I can bite the bullet and make my own damned spaghetti sauce and salsa (but not bread, I hate making bread). And so I am gradually trying to make some changes to feed myself and my family in a way with which I am more comfortable. Fine, whatever, this is not about me.
My grocery bill is already outrageous - at least $1000 a month, usually closer to $1200. Like many of you, I don't know exactly how much of that is food vs. toiletries vs booze, but I know that is a lot of money to spend on food. I know that buying more organic food and trying to eliminate processed food will mean spending even more money. The idea doesn't thrill me, but I can afford it. And trust me, I know how very lucky I am to have the luxury of even considering $6 a gallon organic milk, much less going through eight to nine of those gallons every single month. This is my choice, we make sacrifices in other areas, again this is not about me.
At the end of Food, Inc. there was a "what you can do" bit that recommended things like buying organic, buying local, buying sustainable, buying in season. All great ideas. All expensive ideas. It made me wonder how many people could really manage that. How many people had enough room in their budgets to step out of the abundant and cheap but in many ways not ideal food supply that we have in this country and do it another way? I suspect that for a great many of us, this is not an option. And since I am and always have been a hippie at heart, I think it sucks that rich people can have safer, healthier food than everybody else.
None of that turned out to have all that much to do with what you guys spend on food, or at least it didn't without the additional details of what, exactly, you spend your money on, but your responses are still amazing. And I heard from many of you who do what I hope to do on much less than I spend, so you have inspired me to both eat better and spend less.
Now, wasn't that worth waiting for? (No, don't really answer that, my delicate little ego can't take it.)
So far today, I have been asked:
- Whether my children, ages 4.5 and not-quite-2, were twins. Now sure, I know they look a lot alike, but they were standing right next to each other and the asker had two children of her own and when you put them side by side there is no missing the fact that there is a couple of years between them.
- Whether I was the Hotty Pediatrician's wife. Technically, the Hotty Pediatrician was asked this question, but I was right there to hear it and admire the strangeness. This one is more understandable as we were standing together in the middle of a public library (bumped into him and his kid, oh how I wish I had remembered to brush my teeth this morning), but still a very strange question to face on a random Tuesday.
As I am always one to milk a theme, I figured we could all play along? Anybody out there have any strange questions for me? Fire away, it is how my day is going anyway.
The 33 books I read last year:
Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
Boy Toy by Barry Lyga
Flipping Out by Marshall Karp
Bloodthirsty by Marshall Karp
The Forger's Spell by Edward Dolnick
Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk
Blind Eye by James B. Stewart
Ablutions by Patrick deWitt
Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk
Running from the Devil by James Frevelatti
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Phases of Gravity by Dan Simmons
[Title Redacted] by Marshall Karp*
Show me the Sky by Nicholas Hogg
The Dart League King by Keith Lee Morris
Buffalow Lockjaw by Greg Ames
The Little Sleep by iain Banks
The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz
Evil at Heart by Chelsea Cain
Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay
This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
Curse of the Spellman by Lisa Lutz
Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold
Glover's Mistake by Nick Laird
Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Huge by James W. Fuerst
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman
The Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell
e2 by Matt Beaumont
Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman
* I know the title of this book, but I can't tell you. One of the main perks of working for a fabulous author is being able to cajole him into sending you the draft of his next book, coming to a bookstore near you, with a title and everything, early this summer. You should read his first three books now to get ready.
The ones I think you should read:
Little Bee by Chris Cleave. I think I said before that for the first third of this book I thought it was possibly the most amazing thing I had ever read. The rest of it didn't quite hold up to the beginning, but still worth reading.
Boy Toy by Barry Lyga. Good book. About a teenager, which I don't usually like, but not at all a book for teenagers, at least not exclusively.
Ablutions by Patrick deWitt. Strangely compelling, and I am at a loss to explain why. I was put off by the style for the first three pages, and then completely absorbed.
Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold. Old, I know, but I missed it when it was new. One of those books that creates such a rich, deep, detailed world that you stop reading and find yourself blinking and squinting for a minute, trying to remember which reality is the one in which you participate.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. If you only know Austen in screenplay form, you have been greatly deprived. And if you have a Kindle or iPhone or other electronic reader, all her books are free.
Now, what's the best book you read last year? I only have twelve in my To Read pile and being so low makes me nervous.
Only Chris and I will find this adorable and amazing, but we find it pretty damned adorable and amazing.
Owen, two next month, counting to ten. You know, sort of.
One in a continuing series of posts where I inflict the details of my on-again-off-again attempts to cook meals from scratch on the internet at large.
Hey! You guys wanna know what I ate last week? Too bad, I'm going to tell you anyway!
Roasted Vegetables: A frequent visitor to my kitchen. Red potatoes, zucchini, squash, red onion and corn with some oil and herbs roasted in the oven and served with cous cous.
Squash and Beans: Zucchini and leeks sauteed with butter beans and served over baked spaghetti squash with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. The nutmeg is a critical component. I made this once before and was shocked that Chris liked it since he doesn't much care for either leeks or spaghetti squash. Easy to make a lot and freeze half and freezes very well.
Black Bean Tacos: Another frequent meal for us, also easy to double and freeze. Black beans sauteed with onion, the bell pepper of your choice and garlic plus just enough cayenne pepper to take the top of your head off, ideally. Served as your favorite quasi-Mexican meal - tacos, tostadas, even burritos. Bought the salsa, as always. Maybe learning to make it will be my goal for summer.
Zucchini Leek Melt: Sauteed zucchini and leeks baked over brown rice in a casserole dish, topped with enough swiss cheese to counteract any healthy-eating points from the veggies and rice. I liked this a lot, actually. Chris has a previously-mentioned leek issue and a larger brown rice issue and didn't much care for it. Don't think I'll be making it again, which is too bad for me.
Mushrooms Stroganoff: I think I mentioned this the last time I made it. Not sure that it is Chris's favorite thing (add a sour cream issue to those mentioned above), but I really enjoy it and it takes about 20 minutes to make from pulling stuff out of the fridge to plopping stuff on the table. Served with broad egg noodles.
Now, if you haven't answered my earlier question about how much you spend a month on food, would you mind doing it? It does relate to something I want to talk about this week, but also I seem to be developing a fairly radical obsession with food and I am finding the responses I'm getting unspeakably fascinating. Seriously, I want to sit down with all of you with your shopping lists and receipts and study them in great depth.
You are 23 months old today, a bouncing, boisterous, brawling boy. You spring awake every morning, climb over my head to hurl yourself out of bed, and run out of the room yelling "downstairs downstairs!" (Why yes, you are still sleeping with us every night. Congratulations on beating your sister's not-sleeping-through-the-night record. I wouldn't have thought it possible, but you sure showed us.) You careen through your days at a million miles an hour, bouncing quite literally off the walls and the floor, until something catches your particular attention and you sprawl on your stomach to study it and give it your full attention. Some of my favorite moments these days is when things grow suspiciously quiet and I find you hunkered down dissecting the details of a book or a toy train or whatever bit of Mia's treasure you have managed to steal away with.
You talk a mile a minute, mostly in complete and lengthy sentences. You are learning to count and recite the alphabet. You are learning your colors too. You have brown down pat, blue and red and yellow fairly consistently, and everything else is black. You are starting to be able to pay attention to books with more words than pictures, and especially love to find one you know well and read it to yourself, flipping the pages to find familiar bits and recite the remembered words to yourself. You even read yourself to sleep some nights in your big boy bed, and at quiet time will often spend 20 minutes inspecting your books. Once you have pulled them all of the bookshelf, of course.
You stopped napping almost entirely this month, which I am not thrilled about. You still take an occasional nap when you happen to fall asleep in the car and I manage the transfer to your bed, but putting you in your room for a mid-day snooze is a non-starter. When evening schedules dictate that you must have a nap, I either drive you around or block out two hours to get you to fall asleep in your bed. For the most part, we don't bother, but we do try to enforce a daily quite time. Mommy isn't quite ready to give it up entirely.
You have decided not to wait for the lagging calendar to turn two. Your leading characteristic these days is your independence, followed very closely by your attitude. All I hear all day long is "Owen do it!" and "Owen pick!" and "No, me! No, me! No, me!" This is fine for some things, like picking your own juice cup, but less fun when you cannot be convinced that it is not appropriate for you to slice the carrots for dinner. You are desperate to do everything on your own and accept my help only grudgingly and after numerous failed attempts.
You got some underwear for Christmas, which you insist on wearing nearly full time, either alone or over a diaper. You are earning lots of M&Ms these days, but Mommy is doing lots of mopping up too.
You love to play with Mia, and you are finally at a point where you can understand some simple games and participate in a way that is satisfactory enough to Mia that she will play with you. Nothing in the world makes you happier than Mia's attention and being like her. You want to be in her room, sleep in her bed, wear her shoes, and be near her at all times. Unfortunately, you also want to hit her, push her down, pull her hair, and sometimes bite her. Dada and I bounce quickly between sighing and smiling at the two of you playing so sweetly together and prying you off each other and bundling you both off to time out.
My sweet Owen, I have to be honest here. You are a massive pain in the ass right now. You demand total independence, have a naughty streak a mile wide, don't listen for squat, are loud and wild and incredibly physical, boisterous, incorrigible, defiant, and entirely undisciplined. You are completely immune to all attempts at behavior modification. Time out makes you giggle. Putting you in your room cows you, but only ever so briefly and then you go straight back to the behavior that put you there. I spend all day every day trying to keep you from damaging yourself or someone else. You drive me absolutely crazy, and I have to work very hard to hide the fact that I find it all perfectly adorable.
Darling boy, you will likely learn this at some point, so I might as well tell you now. Your conception was a total shock to us. We had always planned to have a second child, we were in the process of deciding when to start trying to make that happen, and then you answered that question for us. Because it was so unexpected, because I thought we were likely in for another long slog and never thought it could happen that way for us, it took me a while to feel like I was ready for you. I believe now that it happened that way because it was the only chance we had to get you, and you are the exact child we were meant to have. Even when I am tearing my hair out trying to deal with you, I love you with every bit of my being, and I can't imagine how we could possibly have done without you.
I have a point for this, I promise, and I'll tell you all about it next week. But for now I have a burning question - what do you spend a month on food?
Ah, well. Christmas was wonderful here, how was yours? We decorated cookies and spent time with family both nuclear and extended. We opened gifts and rode bikes and played with choo-choos and dollhouses and chap stick. My kids love chap stick, must be genetic. We hit two museums and the aquarium, where Mia wanted only to visit the revolving door that she recalled from our visit six months ago and Owen bashed his little nose in trying to kiss the fish in the tanks. Mia scored her first ever Happy Meal and then her second ever Happy Meal and also, at age 4.5 consumed her first ever animal (1.5 fish sticks) and saw her first ever movie theater movie. Owen tried to high-five the stuffed tiger suspended from the ceiling at Natural History and started saying "What's that?" every nine seconds and screamed in terror every time we tried to get him anywhere close to his great-great-uncle but kissed and hugged and patted and generally adored his 2-month-old cousin.
We played lots of Wii and did lots of coloring and spent hours watching Owen's new Thomas go around and around (and around and around). It was lovely. And even though I left the house without taking at least one child with me precisely once in three weeks, I am grateful that we are able to take this time with these little people to do not much of anything but be together.
And now, here we are again. My New Year's Resolution is to grow decent fingernails. Any tips? I don't bite them, they are just pitiful and peely.