Friday, April 30, 2010

Desperate times call for desperate measures

I was determined to plant some of my seedlings tonight. Nicholas was determined to prevent me from doing so. . . even to the point of stealing my shovel. This boy loves the dirt already.

I got home from work around 5 p.m., and I decided that today was the day. I have been meaning to put some plants in the cold frame and in the rest of the garden, but I Greg hasn't been home in the evenings to watch Nick. Today I figured I'd better improvise. So I had to resort to desperate measures. I got out the baby leash, and wrapped it around my foot while I planted seedlings. Is that crazy? Possibly, but I couldn't figure out any other way of ensuring that Nick didn't run out to the street during my planting.

I ended up planting (left to right) broccoli, sweet peppers, and some sort of herb. I'm not sure which one because the labels all washed off of my sticks. I learned a lesson today about starting seeds--I am never again using the plastic greenhouses. Getting the seedlings out of those little plastic squares was incredibly difficult, and I think I may have damaged a root here and there. I don't know if I planted them too closely together. It didn't seem like it when I was out there, but looking at the picture now they might be too close. I'm also not sure if I chose the right plants to put in the cold frame. Live and learn, I guess. I've been researching for months, but I can't get consistent advice on when to plant and how to correctly time plantings with a cold frame. So I guessed.

I let Nick dig in the empty spot right near me. Notice his digging technique--not bad for a 17 month old. He was a happy camper, but he did keep whacking my plants with the shovel while I wasn't looking. The first row of spinach came up, so I planted a second row. All of the books say to plant it over time, so you have a more continuous harvest. I love spinach, so hopefully it'll work. Here's what my spinach looks like now.

So I know what you're thinking now. This girl is a party animal--taking pictures of her spinach seedlings on a Friday night. Yup. That's me. Always ready for a good time.

About this time Nick started pulling on the leash, and I started hoping Greg would get home soon. Amazingly, as soon as I thought this, he magically drove up in the driveway, and I handed over the baby leash to Daddy. Relieved to be without a leash wrapped around my ankle, I planted carrots and another herb (basil? I think).  Hmm, I didn't label anyything, so I'm not actually sure what I planted.  Then I noticed that the sky was looking ominous. I do believe it's going to really rain later tonight. Hmm. Rain is good for plants, right? I suppose a raised bed garden is better for not flooding out the seeds, since it drains well. . . I hope everything makes it through the night.

I like this picture for the way you can actually see how Nick is in perpetual motion. You can even see him waving around the mini rake and shovel as he runs down the sidewalk, with his daddy close behind.

I'm still trying to figure out the best time to plant my tomatoes. They're tired of being under the lights, but it might still be too early to plant them outside, because of the risk of frost. I will keep deliberating.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, April 26, 2010

My husband is awesome.

Man, can he cook! Can you tell that Nick thinks so, too? Look at what he cooked us for dinner last night from his Williams-Sonoma Cookbook. It was absolutely delicious. My mouth is still recovering from the taste sensations. Plus, I got to have leftovers for lunch today, and the rest of the guacomole when I got home from work. I love when he decides to cook.

Above you can see our dinner (his manly portion--mine was smaller). We had carne asada (from rib eye steak) and grilled mushrooms, orange pepper, and green onions, grilled on a charcoal grill. He made homemade guacamole from scratch, brown rice with black beans, and refried beans, too. (You can never have too many beans.)

Greg and I have totally different ways of cooking, though. We can't even be in the kitchen at the same time. Greg is very meticulous, and he measures with exacting throughness. He has mastered making brown rice and it comes out perfectly every time. He uses recipe books and does not substitute. Dicing and measuring all of the ingredients neatly in little clear bowls, Greg cleans as he goes. Often, it looks as if he were on one of those cooking shows, with everything laid out neatly, in the order that it will be used. Greg cannot handle if I come into the kitchen for a glass of milk while he's making dinner. He prepares dishes for one meal, sometimes two, without regard for how many leftovers there will be. In fact, before we started living together, he used to shop for groceries on a daily basis, filling one grocery bag with the ingredients for one recipe, cook dinner, and then dispose of the leftovers. Thank goodness he'll eat leftovers now.

My cooking, on the other hand, is far more haphazard. I am a multitasker, and often cook dinner, talk on the phone, make bread, watch Nick, and listen to NPR all at the same time. This has resulted in some interesting mistakes. . . I still can't make brown rice without screwing it up. While I sometimes start with a recipe, I change proportions, double a recipe, and substitute ingredients. I also love to throw extra stuff into everything. For example, I'll toss spinach into any dish. I also definitely do not clean as I go; the kitchen is often trashed after I have made our evening meal. Eyeballing instead of measuring, I've been known to either totally screw up a dish or come upon something marvelous by accident. I've had spaghetti stuck to the wall and I somehow got banana puree on the ceiling. I also cook for an army--I enjoy leftovers and I feel that if I have to go to the effort to cook and mess up the kitchen (and I do mess up the kitchen), I should get a few meals out of it.

I suppose, though, that it is a lucky thing that we both cook. Greg and I enjoy healthy recipes, but also international foods and experimentation. We just can't both be in the kitchen at the same time. I wonder who Nick will take after in the kitchen?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

In some ways, boys are all the same. . .

. . . they love climbing on things, and sticking out their tongues.

Slides are all well and good. . .

. . . but climbing up them is even more cool.

Little boys love to play with their toys, but a stick makes the best toy. If a little boy is holding a stick, it will always be used as a weapon. Nicholas used this particular stick to bang on the slide, the wood chips, and his daddy's left leg.

Nick was very sad that he couldn't spend the weekend outside due to the rain. In fact, except for a short walk with daddy today, he stayed inside all weekend. Poor guy kept saying "Outside!?" and then looking at us with his puppy dog eyes. He must've pointed towards the door a thousand times, and he is tall enough now to hang on the doorknob and try to turn it. I was kind of sad, too, because I couldn't work in the garden. Instead, I got the whole master bedroom, bathroom and closet cleaned (with help) and did what seemed like seven million loads of laundry.

Boring weekend, but I'm excited for dinner tonight. My husband is grilling us carne asada with peppers, green onions, and mushrooms over brown rice. He already made homemade guacamole. I love when Greg cooks from the Williams-Sonoma Mexican Cookbook. My mouth is watering already. I'll leave you with a video of Greg taking Nick down the slide.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Honey Wheat Bread--Nick's Favorite

Last June, Greg bought me a breadmaker for my birthday, and since then I have not bought one loaf of bread from the store. Instead, I make my own. Nick definitely approves--he especially prefers the crusts, which is great, because I especially do not prefer the crusts. When he smells the bread baking, he points towards the breadmaker and shouts "NO!" That's what he says when he really wants something.

I have promised several friends that I'd post the recipe for my perfected honey wheat bread, and I'm finally getting around to doing that today. I fooled around for months trying to figure out how to make bread that I liked consistently. Finally I realized that I didn't need to use the wheat bread setting. Since I'm using white whole wheat flour, the regular bread setting works perfectly.

Since my surgery in 2003 (Roux-en-Y Bariatric surgery), white bread has not agreed with my system. When I eat it, it shoots my blood sugar up, and then within a half hour, I'm having trouble with hypoglycemia. After meeting with doctors and nutritionists, and through years of trial and error, I've figured out that I have to have a balance of "good" carbs (whole wheat, high fiber and protein content) and protein foods. That's why I've added the flaxseed, wheat germ, and oatmeal. This recipe tends to keep my blood sugar steady, and it is delicious, especially right out of the breadmaker. I also love the fact that I know exactly what is in it.

Honey Wheat Bread

1 ¼ cups warm milk
3 T unsalted butter
3T honey
4T ground flaxseed
3T wheat germ
1T vital wheat gluten
1/3 cup oatmeal
2 and 2/3 cups white whole wheat flour
1 ¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ teaspoon yeast

I warm the milk in the microwave first, then pour it into the pan over the butter to soften it. Then I add the rest of the ingredients, in order, and make a little hole in the flour to put the yeast. Finally, I set my breadmaker on the regular setting, and three hours later I have a delicious loaf of bread. The key to this recipe is using white whole wheat flour.

My favorite way to have this bread, lately, is with a little bit of promise spread and pumpkin butter. Last year I started going to the farmer's markets, and I found this great company that makes jam and preserves and such. I order apple, pumpkin, honey, and cherry butter by the boxload from McCutcheon's, and it is worth the price. Nick sure loves the variety of spreads.  :)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Little Boys and Sticks

It must be a "boy" thing. Something about a nice stick just lying there on the ground inspires a young man to pick it up and swing it around wildly. Even a 1 year old knows how to start a mock sword battle with a stick.

Nick observed the little boy next door (he's maybe 8 or 9) playing Star Wars a few days ago with his friend, and he was enthralled. The light saber battle was incredibly exciting to him. Nick even tried to join in the fight with his own stick, running madly toward the battle with a shriek of sheer glee.

A few days later, Nick picked up the stick and instantly remembered what to do with it. There were no adversaries around, but that was okay for him. Nicholas fought his imaginary fencing battle across the yard.

I guess you can't argue with biology. My little man is definitely, well, a little man. He loves to push trucks around and make "vroom" sounds, and then bang them into things. Knocking down towers is loads of fun for him, and Nick thinks it's hilarious when his daddy fakes injuries. And now he likes to use sticks as weapons. Typical. My son already has a longer attention span than I do when it comes to things like basketball games.

I'm actually okay with Nick being into the "guy" sorts of things. I'm just trying to keep it balanced. I love how he also likes to steal the broom from the kitchen and pretend to sweep. I like the way he hugs his stuffed animals (when he's not whacking them with sticks) and gives them kisses. Most of all, I adore how Nick insists on sitting on the kitchen floor when Greg or I cook, stirring imaginary ingredients in a bowl.

Nick can be whatever type of guy he wants to be, but I want to make sure he's a well-rounded gentleman, just like his daddy. Greg is an excellent cook, and he cleans more than I do. We've probably each changed about the same number of diapers, because we divide up child care responsibilities. Our little family certainly doesn't follow traditional gender roles, and I'm hoping Nick doesn't grow up with strict ideas about what mommies do and daddies do. When Nick finds a stick, though, the caveman in him comes out, and he's all boy. Frankly, it's rather cute.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Gardening Advice Needed, Please

We built it! Or, I should say, Greg built it, I directed, and Nick did everything he could to prevent us from getting it done.  He especially liked climbing into the beds, trying to grab Greg's screwdriver, and running away from us down the sidewalk.

 Greg and I decided that we'd like to do more in the yard this year, so the first project on our agenda was to build a raised bed system. A few weeks ago, we purchased a raised bed garden kit from Costco, and it's been sitting in our garage taunting us ever since. But Greg got all of the pieces together today, and I went over to Home Depot to get horse manure, mushroom compost, hummus, organic garden soil, and peat.

This is what the kit said our garden is supposed to look like, come summer. We shall see. We did chose a more curved setup, but we like the way it looks in the corner of our yard.

Here's how it looked with the cold weather panel and all of the soil filled in. I planted three rows of spinach seeds from the Seed Saver's Exchange, but everything else I bought says that it can't be planted until after the last risk of frost (end of May around here). My question is, since I have the cold frame, can (or should) I plant something in there now, one month early? What is safe to plant that would survive in a cold frame with a decent seal? (zucchini, beans, rosemary, cucumber) What would do well direct planted into a cold frame? Or can I transplant some of my indoor stuff that's been under the flourescent lights? Those are doing really well.

Oh, and I could also use some help identifying the plants I grew from seed. I have tomato, pepper, basil, thyme, broccoli, and I forget what else. You see, my mini-greenhouses came with these convenient little plastic things to write down what you're planting. So I used them. The first time I watered, however, all of the writing washed right off and now I'm only guessing as to what I have planted here. Any advice would be helpful. Otherwise I suppose the plants will tell me eventually. For example, if the plant makes a bell pepper, I'll have my answer. If it makes a tomato, it must be a tomato plant. Sigh. Can you tell I'm still a beginning gardener?

The plants are doing really well under the fluorescent lights, although the neighbors must wonder what I'm growing up there--the lights are so bright they light up the neighborhood. Heck, I guess I couldn't tell them what I'm growing, either. I do know that I only planted vegetables and herbs--I'll have to wait and see what kind.  :)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Mommy's Little Garden Helper

Nick loves to help me when I'm gardening. I've been working the last week or so to get the front yard and the sides of the driveway weeded and mulched. Nick likes to think that he's "helping," and he grabs the tools out of my hand everytime. I even bought some cheap plastic 99-cent tools so that it is safer when he steals them from me. Nick uses them to bang on rocks and plants. Today I was trying to repot some of my tomato seeds and Nick kept stealing the shovel and spilling potting mix all over the place.

He's also been doing better with keeping his hats on, too. Last year he'd rip them off fairly quickly and I couldn't keep them on him. This year I just ask him, "Nick, where does the hat go?" Then he'll put it on his head. Sometimes he tries to put it on my head, but my giant noggin is far too big for his baby hats.

Pushing his little car around outside is a new joy now that it's been warmer. Notice how Nicholas has stolen my car keys and driven his car into the concrete step. Reminds me of when I first got my license. . .

He kept hitting the lock button on my car and making it beep, too. I double checked before we went in to make sure he hadn't popped the trunk. A few months ago, he popped my trunk while playing with my keys and the little light in the trunk must've run down the battery, because it was dead the next morning. So I'm really careful to check now everytime he plays with my keys.

I don't think you can see, but he had my keys in his hand and was pretending to open the door with them. It's funny how much he copies us.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Under the Weather During Beautiful Weather

It's me who has been under the weather--Nick is just fine. I've been sick the last couple of days--since Monday, really, although I made it at work until Tuesday afternoon. It was some sort of horrible stomach or flu bug that finally ran its course. I suppose I picked really good days to be sick, though. The weather was amazing, and I was able to spend a few hours outside with Nick enjoying it. I do believe the fresh air helped me to feel better, although I needed to lie down again after only about 30 minutes outdoors. Check out the tree in the background--I love all of the white blooms.

It's funny, but I think he somehow knew I was sick. Nicholas was really well behaved (for a toddler). When I was lying on the couch Tuesday afternoon, wracked with chills and trying to watch him play, he didn't throw a tantrum. Instead, he played with his toys and brought me books to read to him. Then he snuggled with me on the couch. Nick was pretty good all week, actually, and he didn't wreak too much havoc while I was recuperating. It's funny how that happens--I noticed it with my students at school, too, on Tuesday. I told them I wasn't feeling well, and they didn't give me any trouble and were extra nice. That's one of the reasons I like children. 


With the weather here in the 80s, Nick kept announcing "outside!" and pointing towards the door. He wanted to play outside, and I could only stall him for so long. Not that I really wanted to; I was perfectly comfortable sitting in the grass watching him poke things with sticks and run around. My spring flowers are looking really good so far. The tulips and irises (I think they're irises) are blooming, with more buds still to come, and the peonies are just starting to come up. Below you can see Nick giving you the tour. He's learned to say "Pretty," and he keeps pointing at trees and flowers and announcing just that.

I just love perennials. They're nearly impossible to kill, come back no matter what, require very little work, and they can make my house look amazing even if I have no idea what I'm doing. The year I was pregnant with Nick I literally did not touch one thing outside, and I still got compliments on my "gardening" skills. Not too bad.

I love that Nick was able to wear shorts today. I'm also rather proud of the outfits I found him this year. I think I've learned my lessons about buying children's clothing. Now I buy everything online, and most of it is lightly used. I really like the clothes from Gymboree, but I sure can't afford to shop there. So instead I buy the outfits from other people's kids who have grown out of them. This little outfit consists of an ant motif with "work, work, work" on the front. The hat matches, as do the socks and the cargo shorts. I have another onesie that goes with the ensemble, which is called "Botanical Babies," and cost me less than $15, with shipping. I believe that's a wood chip in one hand and half of a plastic Easter egg in the other.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Easter 2010

Nick had a spectacular Easter last Sunday. Between all of the presents from his grandparents playing bunny, the yummy goodies, and the plastic eggs filled with animal crackers, he was in a pretty good mood for most of the day. 


Easter egg hunting was a hit for Nick as well. I love the look of sheer determination on his face (above) as he headed for the eggs. Figuring out what to do in a matter of minutes, Nick headed off across the backyard in search of his prey. He had quite an audience, too--he was the only child, so all of the eggs were for him, lucky boy.

The only problem Nicholas had was that the basket kept dumping over and the eggs would fall out. Then he would collect them again, looking mildly confused as to how more eggs had appeared. Theoretically, his egg hunt could've lasted forever.

Now, when Nicholas figured out that there were animal cookies inside of the eggs, the fun really started. Notice above how Tigger and Nick are both scraping the bottom of the basket at the same time. Tigger (my mom's dog) figured out about the cookies at exactly the same time. So I guess Nick did have some competition after all.

My mom crocheted Nick this adorable little bunny and a new blanket for his crib. He loves the blanket because it has little holes in it and he can put his toes in the holes. His Grandma Toni got him an adorable summer outfit and some rice krispie treats--one was shaped like a bunny. He loved the rice krispie treats, but was confused by the Peeps. I don't believe he understood that they are food. I, for one, adore Peeps. I like them best when partially stale. I used to buy them and cut open the packages, then eat them after a week. Strange, I know.  Nick's Auntie Mandy got him some cotton candy, and I'm waiting a little bit for him to try that. I think he'll love it. She may want to be there when he tries it, because she can take pictures of the mess.  :)  Then she can help clean him up.

Nick just loves the birdie fan pull on his Grandpa Ray's fan. Everytime he goes over there, he likes to reach for the birdie. Everytime Nick sees a ceiling fan now, he says, "Birdie," even when there isn't a bird on the fan pull. I guess he wishes there was one.

We really wanted my sister to take a nice family picture of the three of us. These are the nicest of the bunch. It is very hard to get Nick to stay still and smile. I think the second one, that wasn't posed, turned out nicer and has all three of us in it. That can count as a family shot, right? My sister really took some great pictures, anyway, even when Nick wouldn't cooperate.

I'm going to end with this picture because it looks like Nick is taking a bow. "Thank you everyone, the show is over.  All of the eggs have been collected."

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Highlights of Nick's Week

Nick had a very busy week, and some parts of the week were much better (from his point of view and/or mine) than others. Last Sunday was Easter, and my sister took some amazing pictures that she hasn't emailed me yet. So, I'll start with last Monday.

Monday--Nick enjoyed playing with the amazing things his mommy found for him on over the weekend. For an obscenely low price, I got him three used but cool things. First, a ride on zebra toy that bounces, spins, and plays music. It has toys on it that make even more cool noises. My child was duly impressed. I also got him the shelf you can see in the background (it has animals on it.) It's great because he can get to the books and put them away by himself. Finally, because the lady had them and they were cheap, I bought him a large container of wooden blocks, which you can see him holding in his hands. He promptly used them to whack me in the head.

Tuesday--Nick went offroading in the backyard with his little ride on firetruck. He loves it, despite (or because of) the fact that it plays the most annoying song. (I see a firetruck, a big red shiny firetruck. . .) It was very windy and his favorite giant bouncy ball blew away.  : (

Wednesday--Nick wears the cutest pajamas ever. Check out the front. They say, "Give me a bear hug." I love the way baby pajamas look. They just make me want to snuggle him. The little curl on the back of his head is the best part. As he's getting older, Nick wants hugs and snuggles more often now, and he even tries to give kisses on the cheek. They are, however, open mouthed drooly kisses.

Thursday--No pictures, but I took Nick out for dinner and to a cultural fair at my school. We went to Mimi's Cafe, a nice family place near 95th Street. I had been bragging to my friends about how well-behaved Nick is in restaurants, so of course he screamed, threw food, and acted like a toddler. I think the reason was that halfway through the meal, he told me "All done," and gave me the sign for done. Of course, I couldn't take him out of the highchair, so he was really ticked off. I left that waitress a really good tip.

The cultural fair was awesome. Nick got to see dances and costumes and try foods from Mexico, China, India, Germany, and Egypt. He whacked some kid over the head with a German flag, ate lots of fried veggies from the Indian table, ran around the gym hollering, and tried to eat the fortune from inside his fortune cookie.

Friday--We admired the new spring flowers, and Nick tried to eat a ladybug. I saved the bug. The tulips look great this year. Can you see my peonies coming up? The peony is such a crazy flower. I am somewhat ambivalent about the peony. It shoots up in just a few weeks, puts out these amazingly beautiful flowers for about two days, then it rains and the flowers fall over and disintegrate when it rains. Finally, you're left with a random green bushy plant for the rest of the season. There are three peony plants lining my front walk, and they were there when we moved in in 2006. I love them for those two days, though, before the flowers disintegrate.

Not a bad week, all things considered. I love the way spring makes me feel--hopeful, relaxed, and confident that everything will be okay in about 8 weeks. Sunshine is very good thing.