Laughing, Weeping, Living

Life happens. You laugh about it or cry about it, sometimes both.

Cookies and Kittens and Other Cute Stuff

Hi all. We’ve been busy around here the past week or so.

First before I do anything else, here is Agnes’ grave marker! It was installed in time for us to visit on Memorial Day. It is so pretty. We are very happy with it.

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Octopus and shark cookies, with interested facial features.

Octopus and shark cookies, with interested facial features.

Okay. Since I made those cute lamb cookies for the Holy Ghost parish Easter dinner, I’ve been waiting for an excuse to make more cute cutout cookies. Finally this week I found an excuse: the celebration of Stephen’s baptism day! He was baptized on May 28, 2011 when he was just barely three weeks old. We want to celebrate these sacramental anniversaries in our family, so we took the opportunity to throw a little party, complete with cute animal cutout cookies. I wanted to do octopuses and sharks because those cutters appealed to me this time. If you are interested, the set of cutters I bought is this one from Wilton. It has any animal you could ever want. Any. Animal. The cookie recipe I use now for these cutouts is the “Glazed Butter Cookie” recipe from The New Best Recipe Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen. I haven’t talked about those guys for a while, but I want you all to know that they are still a big part of my life. Especially now that I can’t live without these cookies. I like this recipe because the dough is easy to work with, you don’t have to chill it for hours before you roll it out for cutting, plus the directions say to roll the dough between two sheets of parchment which is pure genius. Nothing sticks to anything and the dough rolls out perfectly even with very few tears. That’s “tears” rhymes with “pears” not rhymes with “beers,” though this recipe certainly cuts down on that kind of “tears” as well.

Nap time

Nap time

Also this past weekend we went to visit my Aunt and the new kittens one of her cats recently birthed. There were four kittens in the litter and we wanted to adopt one of them! It was a fun trip. Stephen enjoyed playing with all four kittens, who were all energetic and very adorable. We decided relatively quickly that we wanted to take the fluffy one, the only kitten that has long fur. We had been discussing potential kitten names for a while so it was pretty easy to decide on a name. At this point in the story I would like to stop the narrative in order to fill you in on a bit of history. As you know, we already have a cat named Sashimi. We adopted Sashimi a few years ago when we lived in Billings, MT, and we thought it was funny to name him after the Japanese raw-fish appetizer “sashimi.” Ha ha. Aren’t we funny and so witty. Anyway so. We wanted to continue the ethnic food theme with our new cat as well. We tossed around some ideas like Pakora, which is a chickpea flour fritter from the East Indian culinary tradition. We considered Cannoli. Taquito. Nori. Ramen. As you can imagine it gets ridiculous very quickly. Frijoles Refritos, “Frito” for short. Combo Plate #2. Gravlax. Wonton. I refer you back a few lines [ha ha aren’t we funny and so witty]. We named the fluffy kitten Pakora and vowed to bring her home with us.

Oh, but all the other kittens are so cute and look at that one, he really gets along well with Pakora and my Aunt says he’s even more snuggly and I really wanted to get another snuggly kitty. But then, if we get another kitten, what should we name it? Gravlax? Jeremy said no way. I quote directly from Jeremy’s mouth: “That is the worst name for a cat ever.”

Gravlax (left) and Pakora (right)

Gravlax (left) and Pakora (right)

Guess what we ended up naming the kitten? Gravlax! I’m so happy we did because every time anyone says the name Gravlax everyone in the room kind of titters. It’s hilarious. Also, it’s very much in keeping with Sashimi’s name, since Gravlax is a fermented fish that is also eaten raw. I think the name is awesome. Pakora and Gravlax. It rolls off the tongue so well. And they really do get along well with each other. Sashimi did take a few days to get used to the idea of two new kittens, but I think they have already worked out their differences. They have all played together a few times, and they can all eat in the same room without a throw-down occurring.

stephen and iconsFinally, we hung up our icons in our new house. It took awhile to get around to it, but I’m so happy we finally did it. It looks great! There is plenty of room to continue adding icons as our collection grows. So long as add to it symmetrically! We plan to have icons for each of our children’s patron saints, as many as that may be, plus whatever else we decide to add. I’m excited for the possibilities.Gravlax likes Mary!

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Pascha Most Sacred!

“Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered. Pascha most sacred is revealed to us today; Pascha new and holy; Pascha so mystical; Pascha most ven’rable; Pascha which is Christ the Redeemer; Pascha so spotless; Pascha so very great; Pascha of the faithful; Pascha which opened for us the gates of Paradise; Pascha which sanctifies all the faithful.” (from the Paschal Hymns of Resurrection Matins)

Christ is risen! Indeed he is risen!

Dressed in our Easter finery.

Dressed in our Easter finery.

On Sunday my family celebrated Easter for the first time in the Byzantine tradition. It was beautiful, edifying, moving, and inspiring. I was able to attend liturgies on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning, and each was beautiful as part of the whole story of Great and Holy Week. On Friday, we processed around the outside of the church with a Holy Shroud, an ornately embroidered cloth with an icon of Jesus laying out as though in a tomb; the icon was made of fabric, I think. We processed then took the shroud back into the church where it was laid in a “tomb” surrounded by candles and flowers. Each parishioner then approached the shroud, crawling on our knees, to kiss the face, hands, and feet of Jesus. On Saturday, the liturgy focused on the theology of baptism as passing from death into new life. During one of the songs, the priest picked up the shroud and laid it across his shoulders. He carried it out of the “tomb” and put it on the altar where it always rests. The sacrament of Holy Eucharist takes place upon the icon of Christ at every liturgy. I never noticed that before this week.

On Sunday morning, we started with the Resurrection Matins, which are sung only on Easter morning each year. Matins begins with another procession around the outside of the church, this time with the icon of the Resurrection. During Matins we sang the refrain, “Christ is risen from the dead! By death He conquered Death, and to those in the grave He granted life.” When I say we sang that refrain, what I’m saying is we sang it about five million times. After Matins, we jumped right in to Divine Liturgy. It was a long morning, but so beautiful and joyful. At the end of liturgy, Fr. Sal suggested all the parishioners go out to the front steps of the church for an Easter morning group photo. All the parishioners. That is one of the wonderful things about belonging to a smaller parish.

Our traditional Easter foods, and my natural-dyed eggs.

Our traditional Easter foods, and my natural-dyed eggs.

Jeremy and I also participated in the Ukrainian traditional Easter foods. The tradition is to fill a basket with the foods you will eat after liturgy on Easter day. You bring the basket to church Saturday and the priest blesses the food. Then, you take it home and you have to eat all of it, because it’s blessed! If you don’t want to eat that last egg, you have to bury it in the ground; you can’t just throw it away! The traditional foods are ham and/or sausage, hard cooked eggs, pascha bread, butter molded into the shape of a lamb, cream cheese, and beet horseradish relish. It was not like Easter dinners I’ve eaten before, but it was delicious!

For our Easter eggs, I decided to try natural dyes. I used some of the juice from my purple sauerkraut, and turmeric. I added a bit of water and vinegar to both. The eggs turned out blue and yellow, which happen to be the national colors of Ukraine! I did not plan that at all, those were just the natural things I had around that I thought would work to dye eggs! It was really fun using the natural dyes. I would like to experiment with other things, and I don’t see why colored eggs should belong to Easter only. I’m going to do it any old time!

So, after a long break away from my blog, I am happy to be back! We moved to a new home last week, so for a few weeks we were working flat out to pack up at the old place, then we moved and didn’t have internet yet, and we were working flat out to unpack the essential items. Now things are calming as we have reached the point that whatever is in a box isn’t urgently needed, so we can work at a more reasonable pace. And we obviously have internet again!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holy day. Remember to keep the party going: Easter lasts for fifty days!

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Eggroll Pizza

100_2074Folks, the pinnacle of culinary invention has now been achieved. The world has now witnessed the marriage of two perfect foods, which have become, in their union, a single even more perfect food.

It all started this afternoon when I experienced a craving for Chinese fast-food eggrolls, a craving that was never to be fulfilled on a Friday during Lent. So I took matters into my own hands. I already knew I was experimenting with pizza for dinner, since I recently read a recipe for pizza crust made from cauliflower puree. Why not experiment with the toppings as well?

So I followed the cauliflower crust recipe: Chop up one head of cauliflower into smallish pieces. Pan fry in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until crisp-tender and browning. Puree in a blender or food processor with 1/2 cup cornmeal, two eggs, salt and pepper to taste. Throw in extra seasoning if you like. Line a pizza pan with parchment and pour out the batter. Spread it around to fill the pan. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes.

While the crust bakes, prep the toppings. I used some of my red cabbage sauerkraut, rinsed and drained, matchstick carrot pieces, thinly sliced bell pepper, and about a teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger.

I made an asian peanut sauce from this Rachel Ray recipe. I could eat this sauce everyday, on anything, it’s so delicious.

So, when the crust is baked to your liking, spread the sauce, then arrange the kraut, pepper slices, carrot shreds, and sprinkle the fresh ginger. Bake an additional 10 minutes or longer if you like your veggies cooked more thoroughly. I liked to keep them fairly fresh since I had all that lovely sauerkraut on there. Cooking the kraut kills all the probiotic organisms which are the main reason to even eat the stuff.

I was actually not overwhelmed by the cauliflower crust. It tasted good, but it didn’t hold together and we had to eat the pizza with forks. I can see where I personally went wrong and I’m willing to try it again, but I’m not convinced it’s worth the trouble for me. I added a bit of water to the blender because the stuff wasn’t blending and I probably should not have done that. I think a food processor would work better for this job. I am planning to try these same toppings on a regular pizza crust and see how that goes. I can’t wait!

This pizza satisfied my eggroll craving, and it looked so pretty. Definitely a flashy dish that would even impress company! If you can convince them to try it!

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Awesome Roast Chicken

I made a roast chicken for dinner tonight less than a week after making the same roast chicken. It is that good.

I followed the “Simple Roast Chicken” recipe in The New Best Recipe cookbook from American’s Test Kitchen. These are the people behind the Cook’s Illustrated magazine. The cookbook is called the “best recipe” because the recipe for each item really is the best way to do it. The test kitchen works out scientifically all the possible ways to roast a chicken, for example, then they figure out the way to roast the chicken that results in the most awesome chicken, and that’s the chicken that makes it into the cookbook.

So, I made it. It was AWESOME! I only did one thing different from what the recipe says: I put carrots in the bottom of my roasting pan instead of a roasting rack.

Here is how you make the most awesome roast chicken you ever tasted ever.

100_20691. Brine your whole chicken. Dissolve 1/2 cup of table salt in 2 quarts water and soak the chicken in the fridge for at least an hour. This is the most important step. Your brined chicken will be tender and juicy, never dry.

2. Put your roasting pan in the oven and preheat to 375. It is important to preheat your pan. I used the deep covered baker from Pampered Chef. But without the cover.

3. Cut up the carrots and melt 2 to 3 Tbsp of butter. Set aside the butter. Put the carrots in the preheated pan and drizzle with olive oil. Get the chicken out of the brine and pat it dry. Rub the melted butter all over the chicken. You can season with pepper. Put the chicken on top of the carrots, on its side so a wing is sticking up.

4. Roast the chicken for 15 minutes. Flip the chicken so the other wing is sticking up. Roast for 15 minutes. Turn up the oven to 450 and flip the chicken on its back, breast side up. Roast until done. For a 3 1/2 pound chicken, 20 to 25 minutes more. For a 4 1/2 pound chicken, 35 to 40 minutes more. Meat thermometer stuck in the fat part of the leg should read 160 to 165.

5. Get the delicious crispy golden chicken out and rest it on a cutting board for 10 minutes. You can keep the carrots warm in the oven while you fix the rest of the sides and set the table. Carve the chicken at the table and prepare to enter chicken bliss.

6. You can shave more meat off the carcass to make sandwiches later, or to put in tacos. The carcass will make a killer chicken stock. Don’t throw it away!

The only criticism I have with this recipe is it results in flabby back skin, but since no one really lines up to get the back off a roast chicken, I’m willing to overlook this.

Please promise me you will make this chicken for your family. That is all. Thank you.

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“No I’m Not Like a Hobbit”

Earlier this week: (L to R) Me, Jeremy, Jeremy's brother David, Stephen.

Earlier this week: (L to R) Me, Jeremy, Jeremy’s brother David, Stephen.

My precious little boy, Stephen, is really bringing it lately in the verbal department. His thoughts are complex. His pronunciation is good. His vocabulary is impressive.

Tonight I made Stephen a grilled cheese sandwich to eat at 5pm because I knew we would order a pizza later and avoiding toddler meltdown is my primary goal in life. So, Stephen ate a sandwich at 5pm. He also ate some pizza at 7pm when the adults sat down for dinner. My mom remarked, “Stephen, this is your second dinner. You’re like a hobbit!” Stephen became visibly upset and choked out in his crying/whining voice, “No, I’m not like a hobbit; I just had a sandwich!” The rest of us did what we could to refrain from very visibly laughing while I reassured Stephen that being like a hobbit was not a bad thing–no. That it was actually kind of a cute thing for grandma to say…

I don’t think he was convinced.

He has demonstrated some other impressive feats. Little dude can count to twenty. “1, 2, 3, …., 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 11-teen, 19, 20.”

He can compare concepts such as big vs. little. “I’ll give you a little piece of pizza,” I might say (hypothetically). “Stephen can have big piece of pizza,” he may (hypothetically) counter.

He knows all the colors. He doesn’t understand the concept of favorite yet, though.

Stephen can hold a conversation. “Stephen,” I say. “Will you help eat the purple sauerkraut when it is ready?” He replies, “No [wimper]. I’m not eating sauerkraut…[wimper wimper].”

I say, “Stephen, it’s time to come upstairs and take a bath.” He replies (again, this is a hypothetical situation), “No! I’m not going upstairs [sob] I’m going downstairs in family room! [sob].” Or alternatively, on days like today, “Go to bed. I’m not taking a bath. Get animals and go to bed.”

He does use contractions, and for the most part they are correct. His grammar is really very good; he just struggles with some pronunciation. That is mostly just the cutest thing you ever heard. My favorite is “leaves” becomes “weebs.”

So, I’m done bragging about my genius child.

Water kefir. The "grains" are sitting at the bottom of the jar full of sugar water.

Water kefir. The “grains” are sitting at the bottom of the jar full of sugar water.

The other neat things right now are my fermentation projects. My cousin Karin sent me some water kefir starter and I’ve been working with that. These things are weird, let me just say. Apparently the kefir starter is a colony of yeast and bacteria that you can submerse in a jar of sugar water, the kefir grains (called “grains” because that’s what the look like) eat the sugar, leaving you with a fermented beverage. After the grains have done their thing, you strain them out and ferment the water again with a splash of juice or whatever you want. This second ferment can be an opportunity to build up carbonation, making the stuff taste like soda. My first batch was just okay and flat, my second batch failed for whatever reason, and my third batch looks promising. It is in the second fermentation stage right now. I put some fresh ginger in with the stuff so I’m hoping it turns into something like ginger ale flavored water kefir soda.

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My virgin batch of sauerkraut. Red cabbage and carrot shreds.

I also started some fresh sauerkraut yesterday. So far it is looking good! All you need to do sauerkraut at home is some cabbage, salt, a large wide-mouth container, and time. You shred the cabbage and salt it, then use your hands or a handy kitchen utensil to bludgeon the cabbage until it releases moisture. You want to get it as wet as possible. Then you tamp it down in your container and weight it down with some rocks on a plate or a jar full of water. The goal is to press out all the brine so it covers the cabbage. I did end up adding about a cup of extra salt water brine just to get all my shreds submerged. My kraut is already burbling and starting to smell. I guess that’s good! Personally, I don’t even currently like sauerkraut but I know the fresh stuff is pretty close to the best food for healthy digestion because of all the probiotic cultures. I want to add that kind of thing to my diet, and I’m hoping the taste of kraut will grow on me! Honestly, it was one of the easiest kitchen projects I’ve ever done. I hope it works out!

That’s what is going on around here. Thanks for popping in!

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7 Quick Takes: November 8

Linking up with Jen and the gang at Conversion Diary. I missed last week, but I’m happy to be back!

1. So, it’s really nice having Agnes at home and all, but I did have a lot more time to do stuff when she was in the hospital. Please don’t judge me, but I did really enjoy having time to blog in the evening after Stephen went to bed, or to sleep in past 7 a.m. Plus it’s super stressful having both kids at home. I know it’s super stressful having more than one kid as it is, but with Agnes, I’m pretty much chained to her bedside since she’s connected to two to four machines at any given time and her cords only reach so far. I spent most of my day today sitting in the chair near her bed, holding Agnes in one hand, entertaining Stephen with books and coloring in my lap, and wiping his runny nose with my free hand. It wasn’t the worst day I’ve had, but it kind of sucked.

2. At least there were some funny moments. For example, Agnes’ pulse-ox monitor stopped reading for some unknown reason and it was making that horrible “beep beep-beep” sound. I couldn’t silence the alarm because I had just gotten Agnes settled with me in the chair and her feeding pump running, so I asked Stephen to push the “yellow button on the monitor.” He did it, and the cursed beeping was silenced. That’s my boy! He likes Agnes’ stuff: her pusle-ox monitor, oxygen tank, suction, cords, her trach, all of it. He knows what all the stuff is and what it’s all called. Smarty pants.

100_18743. Also I took this picture last week. Apparently this is the correct way to eat pizza.  Stephen eats much of his food in a similar manner. He takes a few bites out of eat sandwich half before going back to finish. He eats half of each cracker first. I don’t think he’s protecting his plate from mommy and daddy thieves since we take his pieces often even if he has partially eaten them. I think he just likes to do it this way.

4. While Agnes was in the hospital she outgrew some of her cute newborn size clothes. I was sad, until I realized that they are the perfect size to cover those “fluidized positioners” we got when Agnes was discharged. I guess they can only be used for one patient, so we got to bring them all home. I think the clothes are way cuter than the thin hospital covers the positioners came with.

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5. We have had a good response to our fundraising website. We are still in need of a van to transport Agnes around. Our little car is tight in the backseat with a toddler car seat, Agnes’ car seat, and the adult who rides with Agnes. It’s ideal to have an adult caregiver riding to watch Agnes, just in case she gets into trouble. The monitor is often unreliable in the car; I need to be able to see her color because she gets so worked up. The hard part about riding in the backseat is, I can’t even buckle my seatbelt in the back because there is no way I can reach the buckle. And my hips are wedged between Agnes’ seat and the door. God forbid I actually need to do something in an emergency like suction her trach or get in her travel bag for the ambu bag because she is in distress. I can’t really even reach her bag even though we drive with it in the car, in the front seat. There isn’t enough room to drag the bag into the backseat without clobbering Stephen in the face. And even if we got the bag into the backseat, there’s nowhere to put it. If Agnes had an emergency while we were driving, we would have to find somewhere to pull over, stop the car, leap out and go to the front passenger door to get the bag, take the bag to the backseat, get out the supplies that we need, then get to work on Agnes.

So, if you want to make a small gift to help us purchase an adequate used minivan that will afford us the interior space we require, we would be eternally grateful!

100_18876. I have to put this photo on even though it is so dark. Earlier this week, Stephen requested to take a nap. I was so surprised, but I put him in bed thinking he would change his mind and not fall asleep. But he did fall asleep! It was nice; I held Agnes in her chair and lolled around for an hour, recharging. When I went to get Stephen up, he was still fast asleep. I had to sneak a picture, he looked so peaceful and adorable with all his stuffed animals and the blanket up to his chin. He has his platypus which has been his special lovey for just over a year, now. I’m not sure why he picked that of all the stuffed critters, but he did and pretty decisively. Too bad it’s a “retired” Beanie Buddy first generation Patty the Platypus that we have to scour Ebay for to replace. He has two that we rotate–one to wash, one to wear. He also has a monkey that has a removable scented pouch in his tummy that you can microwave for warm, soothing scent. Stephen doesn’t like it warm, though. He just likes to change the monkey’s diaper using his own diapers, which I think is weird and Jeremy thinks is hilarious. Hmph.

7. I heard this song on the radio the other day and I really like it!

Enjoy your weekend!

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7 Quick Takes: October 25

Hi everyone. This week the 7 Quick Takes linkup is being hosted at Clan Donaldson. So I’m joining in at that fun blog.

1. The great city of Cuyahoga Falls, OH–as well as many other cities in the area here–have a scheduled date and time for Trick Or Treat. Cuyahoga Falls is trick or treat-ing tomorrow from 6 to 8pm. I think it’s great there is a specific time and date. That means we don’t have to guess who is going to be ready when and hang out with our bowl of candy from 4pm to who-even-knows pm on Thursday night October 31. When we lived in Billings, there were trick or treaters really early in the afternoon. I remember specifically asking Jeremy, “when does trick or treat start?” and he looked at me like I was from a different planet. I guess I am from a different planet: the planet Northeast Ohio where the cities are kind and smart enough to schedule trick or treat. I know I would rather not take my kid out on a weeknight. Or conversely, show up at someone’s house at 5pm and they don’t even have their candy ready yet. That would be embarrassing!

2. On a similar note, Stephen’s adorable penguin costume is ready! I bought a black hoodie sweater, black sweat pants, some white flannel fabric, and a few sheets of orange craft foam. I sewed a white “tummy” to the front of the sweater, made feet from the foam that will tie around Stephen’s ankles with elastic, and I sewed eyes and a foam beak to the hood of the sweater. The “tummy” is pretty secure; I made sure it was quality stitched so he can wear a cute animal sweater after Halloween. I’m not sure about the eyes staying or not; I might add little ears so his sweater is too cute to even bear. Haha. “Bear.” Get it? Don’t worry, I’ll take pictures!

3. Speaking of Stephen, he has a fun new game to play in the bath. It’s called “monkey pack” and this is how you do it: 1. slap a washcloth on the inside wall of the tub. 2. layer on some foam bath toy monkeys. [optional 2b. count the monkeys]. 3. slap a second washcloth on top of the monkeys. 4. fold up the monkey pack and stuff it in a little bath toy bucket. 5. announce “monkey pack!” 6. Repeat.

4. Agnes is officially coming home on Monday! We are pretty excited. The home nursing agency was not able to coordinate our private duty nurses over the weekend, which is fine and pretty much what I was expecting. Agnes moved up from the PICU and now she is on the floor where all the trach kids go who don’t require intensive care. I will miss the PICU staff! I really like the nurse practitioners down there especially. The staff on the floor is great too, but it is a lot busier and the nurses all have more patients to care for. In the PICU, nurses only ever have two patients, so it’s a difference. Plus, our PICU room was nice and big with large windows. Sigh. At least it’s only for a couple days.

5. I just want to say a bit about the power of prayer. One week ago, Jeremy and I had a big meeting with the PICU doctor, the pulmonologist, some Palliative Care people, and a PICU social worker about Agnes’ long term care, and what the plan was for her treatment. No one could say whether she would depend on a ventilator or not. They had not yet started weaning the vent settings. Two weeks ago, Agnes was completely dependent on a ventilator, she was barely breathing on her own, she required regular doses of sedative because when she was awake, she fought the ventilator and became distressed. We were seriously talking about how we would deal with a baby on a ventilator, and planning our lives around a couple months of hospital time. Three weeks ago, Agnes was close to death. I mean it. They couldn’t give her enough oxygen; they couldn’t sedate her enough; they couldn’t feed her stomach food.

And today she was breathing totally on her own, with exactly the same equipment and oxygen and medicine (except for one med) she had when she was at home last month. She was alert, looking around her room, reacting to me and to Stephen, responding well to occupational therapy, tolerating her bolus feeds, maintaining a decent oxygen saturation.

Of course the doctors and nurses were working hard, but everyone praying for Agnes was working harder! Someone told me today that she honestly didn’t believe Agnes could kick the vent this time. Agnes did kick the vent, with the help of your intercession! Yesterday Jeremy and I prayed our rosary for the intention that Agnes would come home soon. That same afternoon the NP told us she wanted to discharge Agnes today. Prayer works. Miracles are real. Agnes is a miracle and a living example of the power of prayer.

6. Now to totally change the subject, my dad brought home the most enormous head of cabbage I have ever seen. ever. I have been intending to make Ukrainian style cabbage rolls with some of the cabbage, but I keep missing my opportunity. Jeremy offered to make some coleslaw, but there are still 4 more pounds of cabbage to deal with. Does anyone have any good ideas?

7. Stephen has thrown fewer tantrums this week, or at least, I have paid attention to fewer tantrums. I’m also trying something new: I ask him what he wants to eat for dinner/breakfast. So far he hasn’t requested anything objectionable. Yesterday he wanted “cereal” so I asked, “oatmeal or cheerios?” and you can guess what he wanted. This morning he wanted “jelly. peanut butter and jelly.” but he asked for it in a cute toddler voice that I can not transliterate. I am still so thankful he likes eggs again, and we have started giving him a gummy vitamin each day. He always requests “more” vitamin. I’m totally jealous of his vitamins.

Okay, so not very quick takes, but still, I hope interesting takes. Head over to Clan Donaldson for more!

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7 Quick Takes: October 18

Linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary. Like every Friday.

1. Stephen is on a dinner-time hunger strike where he won’t eat the meal I serve. Then he won’t eat the other meal I serve him, trying to get him to eat. Then he won’t eat the meal I serve him again because I wrapped up the plate and put it in the fridge. All he wants is “cheeros” and nothing else will do. It’s frustrating, especially when others in the house opt for “cheeros” for their own dinner on leftover night. How will I ever get Stephen to eat the dinner I prepare for him if other people get to eat breakfast cereal for dinner? It’s a struggle. I’m hoping it’s a phase for Stephen. He used to be such a good eater…he ate anything I put down for him. Except kale. He’s never been a fan of kale. I try to model good eating habits and a variety of foods for him, but he does not look only to me to learn behaviors. There are three other adults in the house he observes as well.

2. We’ve had some response to our support page for Agnes. There have been a lot of people looking at the page, and so far 6 donations. We are almost 4 percent to our goal! We are so thankful and appreciative for those who have offered a gift to help us take care of Agnes and all her needs.

3. I want to start a small cookie baking project to help support my family. I will probably start an Etsy page since this looks like the easiest and most legitimate way to sell homemade goods on a small scale. I have one major question about this venture, though: how do I ship the goods? Should I freeze the cookies and ship them frozen so they arrive frozen? Should I ship them fresh with ample padding? Should I freeze them and ship them frozen so they arrive thawed? I do not know. I fear I may have to purchase some cookies from a number of Etsy vendors in the name of Research. Yes.

4. Agnes continues to be stable. They turned down the rate of the ventilator from 20 to 15 and she apparently did not notice, which is good. The plan is to reduce the rate by five each day, until all Agnes has is CPAP with pressure support, then take away the pressure support and leave Agnes with CPAP, then take away the CPAP. We’ll see how it goes.

5. I’ve been hearing a number of negative comments about people who rely on government assistance programs like EBT and Medicaid. I would just like to remind everyone that while there are of course many who abuse these programs, there are also many who genuinely need the support to make ends meet. I myself use EBT and I am so grateful. If I did not have EBT, we would spend half our monthly income on food, easily, which does not leave much left over for gasoline, bills, incidental expenses, clothing, church donations, and “emergency.” Because, you know if you only have $600 to divvy up after food, there are going to be emergencies. That’s the rules. Anyway, things like this are mildly offensive to me, and also pathetically funny that there are people who believe this kind of stuff, which it is becoming more and more clear to me: there are. lots. If such a thing can be judged by quantifying the related Facebook memes.

And my family is on Medicaid. Oh my gosh, if we did not have this, we would probably spend 1000% (one thousand percent) or more of our monthly income on medical bills.

6. It’s starting to look and feel like Fall around here! The leaves are turning colors, it’s been chilly and crisp. I love it. The heat has been on in the house, and I’ve had to wipe off the windshield in the morning.

7. I’ve got a cough that just won’t quit, and I wasn’t too worried because I have no other symptoms besides a cough that is sometimes dry, sometimes productive. Except now I’ve had it for more than a week, and the coughs really take a lot out of me. I hope I’m not infectious because my daughter has Chronic Respiratory Failure…And I don’t want to go to the doctor because I’m not sure my Medicaid is working right now since Agnes just got transferred off the MCO and back to straight Medicaid, and apparently county employees are so overworked that they accidentally transfer around whole families when one member moves, even though it seems like it would be more work to transfer multiple people…whatever. I have a dreaded phone call to make, I can see. And I’m not encouraged because apparently this happens all the time, and some ladies I’ve talked to have trouble convincing the office that the problem even exists. Sigh. Wish me luck.

Read more takes at Jen’s blog.

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7 Quick Takes: October 11 “Look at this cool stuff” edition

Linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary. In the interest of sparing you my complaining, here are seven cool things that are totally non-important.

1. DIY tumblr, which I have never seen before today when a page I “like” on Facebook made a link. The lady made a giant squid pillow! I could totally do that.

2. This Russian guy does amazing makeup/beauty work. Most of the models don’t even look like themselves anymore.

3. I’m really excited about this.

4. One of the days I was sitting with Agnes at the hospital during her last stay, I watched PBS on a Sunday afternoon. I watched Joanne Weir Cooking Confidence and she made this soup, Butternut Squash with Carrot Soup. I have made it two times at home in the intervening weeks, and I give it high marks. It is very delicious and not complicated, though it does take a long time start-to-finish. The time is mostly waiting for things to cook, but you do have to plan ahead. It is worth the time, and Stephen likes the soup too!

5. Speaking of soup, I am discovering that I love this option for dinner. I have made several kinds of soup in the past few weeks, and I like that it is fairly difficult to do something catastrophic. I made the squash soup, and a soup with chicken and barley, and a cheesy potato soup with broccoli. I followed recipes for all, but I made some adaptations and they still tasted great. How easy is soup, with crackers and cheese, or bread, or a toasted sandwich?

6. Apparently I’m obsessed with the Dragonriders of Pern books by Anne McCaffery. I read them when I was in high school and I come back to them time and again. I have recently read all of them again except the few that I reread not too long ago already. It is a fascinating world with many compelling characters. There are a couple things I find especially interesting, but I guess not interesting enough to talk about them in detail: 1) there is no religion on Pern and no apparent belief in a Higher Power. 2) there are very few cases of cancers, mental or physical disability, or other genetically inherited conditions. 3) the society is culturally liberal from a sociologic standpoint (no stigma for homosexuality or infidelity), yet “drudges” abound in every dwelling. They do menial, dirty work and are often people with more limited intelligence and aptitude. There is also a very strong caste system, though it is possible to move among the classes.

7. I like this song on the radio right now.

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The Phenomenon of Recipe Rotation

I think Recipe Rotation is a real thing. The other day I was thinking about the foods I’ve been cooking lately, and they are not the same sorts of foods I used to cook last year, or even four years ago. I think my repertoire of recipes is shifting. It’s not that I don’t know how to cook those old dishes anymore, but they aren’t the first things I think of when I need to come up with a plan.

In the past week or so, I’ve made some version of oven-roasted vegetables three or four times. I made squash and carrot soup that started with roasting the veg in the oven before simmering and pureeing. This was served with crackers and cheese.

I made taco-stuffed sweetie peppers. This was served with rice on the side.

I made a squash and potato dish with bacon and cheese. This was served on it’s own as a complete casserole, but I would have done well to serve a salad or green beans or something.

I made a potato/carrot/beet dish with oil and fresh herbs. This was served with bread and cheese, and fresh cherry tomatoes.

Except for the stuffed peppers, these dishes feel rustic and simple. They are comforting to eat and simple to make despite the long roasting times. The hardest part is planning ahead to get the dish in the oven in time for an hour of roasting before dinner time. Even the fish I made last night for dinner was pretty rustic: slice some veg and make a foil packet, lay fish fillet over the veg and pour some sauce. Cook the foil packet. Easy.

I didn’t used to have a rustic cooking preference. A year ago, I was making a lot of pizzas, skillet suppers, mexican style food, and dishes served with rice. A few years ago I was making a lot of exotic ethnic foods, chili and stew type dishes, and casseroles.

This week when I made the roasted vegetable dish with bread and cheese on the side, I was surprised at how satisfying I found the meal to be, even though there was no meat and nothing complicated in the preparation. Jeremy agreed that he would also like to eat that kind of meal a couple times a week. That got me thinking about other rustic kinds of dishes I might like to sneak into my repertoire. Polenta with a variety of roasted or steamed vegetables. Simply seasoned chicken with fruit and cheese. Crock pot roast with mashed potatoes or rice.

I’m looking forward to exploring these options and making satisfying meals with simple ingredients. I’m happy my favored recipes are starting to shift toward the less complicated end of the spectrum. My life is complicated enough in other areas! Let the kitchen be simple!

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