Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Tapas Birthday Dinner, Part One

Last Saturday, we celebrated my mom's birthday with a special tapas dinner. Last year, we had a French-themed meal, and this year we "went" to Spain. My mom and stepdad went to Barcelona a few years ago, and I spent a month in Spain back in 2004, so it was nice to revisit those memories. I put out all of my pictures from Spain, and I even downloaded some Spanish music (titled ironically, "Tapas Bar Music.")

I'm thinking I'll talk about our dinner in two or three posts, because I have lots to tell and recipe links to share. By the way, my sister took all of the photos. I was way too busy cooking and drinking sangria.  :)

Yes, that's a Cordobes hat I put on Henry. I was trying to find a way to "put" the kids in traditional Spanish costumes. This is the best I could do. I used my poor photoshopping skills to dress Nicholas up as a matador. Yes, I know I'm not terribly good at this, but hey, I tried.

This meal was the culmination of weeks of preparations, at least four separate shopping trips, and hours of cleaning/decorating. I also spent a very long time on the menu, which was given to everyone but also served as a birthday card for my mom. It's kind of long, but I'm going to attach it here for you to see. (Click to enlarge) Oh, and by the way, I don't actually speak Spanish, at least not very much. I understand a decent amount, but I can't speak or write well, or at all, really. Google translate worked well, and if it didn't, well then, no one in my family would know any differently. Hopefully I'm not saying anything too naughty in Spanish.

Tapas, if you've never had them before, are basically small appetizer portions of both hot and cold foods.  In Spain, they're often combined to make a meal. I love this way of eating, because you just have a few bites of every food, try many new flavors, and spend hours eating and talking. Tapas meals are supposed to encourage conversation. In Spain, dinner is served late (think, 9 pm. at the earliest) and can easily drag on until midnight.

Greg made a homemade Pomegranate Sangria that was delightful but made everyone kind of drowsy.

My stepdad even fell asleep on the couch in between tapas courses.

So what did we eat, you ask? Well, we didn't sit at the table all night, that's for sure. We ate a little bit, then rested and talked, then ate some more. I served Tortilla de Patatas (Spanish Potato Omelet) first. basically, it's a potato and onion omelet, served cold. It is delicious and was quite time-consuming to make. I was impressed, though, at how well it turned out. I loved the flavor of this dish. You can find the recipe here. I followed the directions exactly, except that I added a few more eggs into the mix.

I went to Whole Foods to get fancy Spanish cheeses, along with grapes and apples to serve with them. I think I liked the sheep's milk cheese the best. I also did a baked goat cheese, served with toast made on my homemade baguettes.

Henry, of course, did not get to sample any tapas. But he got plenty of formula and snuggling.

I will write more about our dinner tomorrow. In retrospect, it really was a ton of work. I think my mom enjoyed it, though.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Rough Night

I had a pretty rough night last night. Henry started out his life as an excellent sleeper, going up to 5 hours at a stretch almost right after birth. But in the last few weeks, he's been waking up more at night.

There are very different meanings of the phrase "a rough night," depending on your stage of life. My first year in college, it indicated a night full of studying, or paper-writing. (I started out as a very conscientious student.) By my second year of college, a rough night was one where crazy things happened, sometimes involving a little too much to drink. Not always, though. Often, my friends and I would stay awake for no real reason. I should mention, though, that my grades never suffered for this.

During my college years, it was not unusual for me to wake up well after noon, or to fall asleep in my morning classes. Once, I fell asleep in Political Science class in a lecture hall filled with at least a hundred people. I'd been sitting in the front row, right next to the professor, in the hopes that proximity would keep me conscious. The elderly gentleman woke me up and gently suggested that if I was going to sleep, it would be better for me to move back a few rows. His microphone, you see, was picking up on my loud snores.

As a new teacher, I stayed up late every night grading papers, constructing lesson plans, and doing research. Anyone who thinks it is easy to be a teacher should try it for a few years. It was not unusual for me to drift asleep at every stoplight on my way to school. Those were some rough nights indeed.

When Nick was Henry's age, my maternity leave ended and I went back to work. He didn't start sleeping through the night for a few weeks after that, and I was in a fog. After several times of nearly driving into ditches, Greg started waking up with Nick, because he could function better on less sleep. Thankfully, Nick slept through the night fairly quickly, and he's been a twelve-hour per night sleeper ever since.

I have always been a woman who needs her sleep. Some people can function on six or seven hours, or even less. Not me. Eight is a minimum for me, and if I don't get it, the result is extra caffeine, falling asleep standing up, and other drowsiness issues. I am keeping my fingers crossed that Henry starts sleeping through the night very soon.

My night last night went something like this:

11:30 p.m--We swaddled Henry and put him down. Then, Greg and I went to sleep.

1:15 a.m.--Henry started crying for his bottle. By the time I nursed him, fed him his bottle, burped him, changed him, and re-swaddled him, it was after 2 a.m. It took me 15 or 20 minutes to get back to sleep.

2:45 a.m.--All of our smoke alarms started going off. We have one of those interconnected, super-loud systems, and it scared the you-know-what out of us. There was no smoke that we could see or smell. Nick woke up, too. We went downstairs to figure out what the problem was. Turning the A/C down a few degrees stopped the noise; as soon as it clicked on, the beeping stopped. I googled the problem to try to find a solution, without much luck. After about a half-hour, we gave up, left the A/C set at a sub-arctic temperature, and went to bed. Henry slept through the whole thing and never did wake up. He's used to loud noises, I guess. It took me more than a half-hour to get back to sleep.

4:00 a.m.--Henry woke up squalling, demanding his bottle. He was easily appeased, though, and, after a nice 4 ounce meal, back to sleep by around 4:30.

5:15 a.m.--For some reason, Henry woke up again. I guess he was extra-hungry last night. He nursed, downed another 4 ounces, and passed out yet again.

6:00 a.m.--Greg's alarm started going off. He got up to get ready for work.

6:35 a.m.--Greg woke me up to ask where I'd put the clean onesies. Apparently, all of that milk made Henry pee through his clothes.

7:30 a.m.--Henry started hollering again while Greg was in the shower. I was too tired to go down for a bottle, so I nursed him and fell asleep. I'm guessing Greg took care of him and re-swaddled him.

8:20 a.m.--Greg woke me up to tell me he was leaving for work and Nick was playing quietly in his room.

9:45 a.m.--Henry woke up hungry again. I gave up on sleep and went searching for coffee.

I was in bed for nearly ten hours, but I feel like I didn't sleep at all. It was indeed a rough night.

Does anyone have any suggestions about our smoke alarm situation? It is indeed a dilemma, and I'm not sure what we're going to do if it happens again.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dancin' Fool

Nearly every day, and sometimes two or three times per day, Nick breaks out into dance. He'll dance to any kind of music, but in this video I believe he's dancing to Ween's "Roses are Free." (Greg is a fan.) He mostly just turns in circles to start with, but his repertoire becomes more interesting as his dance continues.

I am not exaggerating when I say that Nick can dance like this for an hour straight. I've been thinking of getting him one of those systems where the game reads your movements (a Wii or a Kinex, I think they're called). I bet he'd pick up on the moves relatively quickly.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Spicy Bread!

A couple of days ago Nick and Henry and I met a few friends at Lou Malnati's in downtown Naperville to have lunch and catch up. We had salad and pizza and bread, all of which Nick enjoyed. Henry just had a bottle. I bet he can't wait until he can have pizza.

Anyway, Nick decided it would be cool to play with the shaker that holds the pepper flakes. Since he was relatively quiet and not bothering anyone, I let him. (My mistake.) This is what happened.

Yup. He somehow unscrewed the lid and dumped hot pepper flakes all over his pizza and bread, not to mention his lap. My friend's little boy told him not to eat the pepper flakes. "I don't think you'll like them. They're very spicy!" Nick just laughed, put a bunch more flakes on his bread, and ate it. All he said was, "Spicy bread!" He actually seemed to like it.

Oh, and yes, I left a nice big tip.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Hot Day at the Morton Arboretum

Last Saturday we had a big outing. We went to the Morton Arboretum for a picnic and some fun. The event started as a present for my grandmother and sister. They both had birthdays in June, and we promised them a nice lunch and walk through the gardens for a present. My mom drove them down to the Arboretum. Also, my friend Gardenmom and her son were in town, and they joined us. A good (but sweaty) time was had by all.

The kids had a blast running around in the children's garden. They had a stream, slides, and a number of climbing areas.

Nick wanted to try everything that Gardenmom's son could do, even if he was too little. My son doesn't understand the concept of "too little."

It's actually quite surprising how refreshing it is to wade in a stream on a hot sunny day.

The arboretum had an art exhibit going on where they crocheted trees. It was pretty awesome, in my humble opinion. Kinda like a sweater for the tree.

Oh, and Henry? He got a ton of snuggling from his grandma and great-grandma. He pretty much got passed between the two of them the entire time we were there. Henry heartily approved. He is happiest in someone's arms.

I do want to go back to the arboretum sometime soon, but hopefully we'll pick a day where the weather is a little cooler.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Checkup for Henry

Henry had his one month pediatrician appointment today. He'll be six weeks old on Thursday, but this was the earliest appointment I could get. Anyhow, he did very well. Doesn't he look pleased? Well, that's about as pleased as Henry ever looks.

Here are his stats:

Weight: 9 pounds, 8 ounces. That's in the 25th percentile. (He was 6'14" at birth.) Strangely enough, I was 9'14" at birth, so I was larger as a newborn than Henry is at almost six weeks old. Crazy.

I'm not surprised that Henry gained so much weight. He has been chowing down regularly.

Length: 22 inches. (50th percentile) Henry was 19" at birth. That means he's pretty tall for his weight.

Head Circumference: 36.9 cm (15th percentile). I can't remember his numbers from birth, but his percentile hasn't changed.

Henry thought that he'd be getting his first shots today. . .

But then the doctor said they would wait until his two-month well visit for those.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Night Out? Really?

I actually got to go out on Saturday night. I don't mean the kind of going out that one does where you run into the grocery store for milk. I'm also not talking about the last minute run to the Walgreens for some baby prune juice or diapers. No, I mean I went out. Like, to dinner. With friends. Without children.

These two ladies were bridesmaids in my wedding, and this is the first time we've all been together since then. I've seen each of them individually, but we haven't gone out. Here we are back in 2008. I'm the one in the wedding dress, in case you couldn't tell. It was two children and a few pounds ago for me.

Anyway, we weren't too wild on our ladies night out. We went to Heaven on Seven and had drinks and then jambalaya and red beans and rice. Yum. It was very spicy, but so good.

We walked around downtown Naperville for awhile, watching all of the people who are used to going out on Saturday nights. There were the very young 20-somethings who made me feel a little old, and the 40-somethings in their cocktail dresses and way too much makeup and botox. There didn't seem to be many people in-between. At one point, we looked for a bar to stop and get a drink in, but no place seemed right.

We did stop at Le Chocolat Bar for dessert, but unfortunately, they don't serve any actual liquor. Instead I had this:

Not too shabby. I bought Greg some truffles as a thank-you for watching the boys (Our 2 plus Gardenmom's son). He was a little overwhelmed with three kids, but he rose to the occasion. I wish I'd bought one of these cupcakes to take home as well.

For me, at least, it was just nice to spend an evening with my friends without having to wrangle little people. Feminine conversation is very good for the soul. I actually relaxed and had a wonderful time. I think I need to do stuff like this more often.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Visit from an Iowan Friend, Part One

I've been very busy the last few days. My friend Gardenmom came to visit us from Iowa with her eight-year-old son, and we had a blast. I'm oh-so-deeply exhausted, but in a good way.

She came to see the baby and have a mini-vacation. Gardenmom also spent a lot of time holding the baby. Henry is a cuddler, so he really liked that.

Gardenmom and I have been friends since college. We've tried really hard to maintain our friendship, and visited one another about once a year since she moved way out to Iowa. Usually we go to lots of exciting places, but this year I just had a baby, so we took it kind of easy. For Nick, it was enough to have someone to play with. He didn't remember Gardenmom's son from last year, and he just called him "that guy" for the first two days. As in, "I don't want to take a sleepy nap. I want to stay here and play with that guy." (pointing)

Nick has a new role model now. I'm all for it, because Gardenmom's son is eight, and fairly well-behaved. We went to the outlet mall, and out to eat on Friday. I made a colossal mistake, though. I didn't think to bring Nick's stroller, and I forgot the tether (leash) for him. He used this as an opportunity to head for the hills whenever possible. We were a funny sight: Nick running, with Gardenmom's son following behind, and me chasing them both. It was a full day of shopping. Henry, thankfully, slept in his stroller most of the time.

At one point, though, we got to a dressing room area in a store where we were the only customers. So I let the boys run wild. Hey, you've gotta pick your battles, right?

The boys entertained one another, and frankly, having an extra child ended up being less work because the older one entertained the annoying one, to a certain degree. 

We visited Mimi's Cafe, one of my favorite casual places, and had a nice lunch. Nick stayed in the booth most of the time, but then again, he had entertainment. And dessert. That was the "reward" for sitting.

Then we went to Houlihan's for dinner. We ordered some fancy fries for Nick, and at one point Gardenmom decided to sample one of them. Nick gave her the dirtiest look I've ever seen. I didn't snap the worst of the dirty look, but this is the face he made when she took another french fry.

My boy gets possessive over his fries. I was really tired that night, but I know I worked off all of the food, chasing after Nick. I am never going to forget the leash and stroller again! It was very nice to have company, though. I wish there was a faster way to travel to Iowa, so we could visit more often.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

This Little Piggy. . .and a Train Song

Nick really liked it when Auntie Mandy did "This Little Piggy" with him. He begged for it again and again.

Nick has become rather demanding in the car. For the last few months, he won't let me listen to NPR. "No talking! Want music. Turn on the music!" Sigh. I miss NPR, but it's not worth the trouble to fight him on that. Instead, Nick begs me to turn on music, and he's picky about what I listen to. He'll tell me, "No, not that song. Want another song!" Thank goodness I don't listen to actual children's music. I couldn't handle that in the car. I need to relax while I drive.

I'm pretty eclectic in my music tastes, but this morning some Grateful Dead came on, and I'll admit. . . I was singing along. I didn't realize for awhile that Nick was singing along, too. It was the Casey Jones song--you know the one--about the train. After the song ended, I turned off the radio to ask Nick a question, and he kept right on singing. . . "Drivin' that train. . . high on cocaine. . . " over and over again.

Yes, that is indeed partially scraped off wallpaper that you see on the walls. Having a baby slows down the home improvement plans, you see.

I winced slightly and hoped he wouldn't sing those particular lyrics in public. Eh, oh well. There are worse songs he could be singing. (And he has. Remind me to tell you about the time Nick and I jammed to Nelly's "Hot in Herre." Or not.)

Anyhow, on the way home about three hours later, Nick got mad at me when I was flipping through the stations. "NO Mommy! I want the train song! Turn on the train song!"

Then, this afternoon, he was playing with his Thomas train while singing what he calls "The Train Song." It was quite cute. So Nick has a new favorite song.

I supposed I'd better track down all of my Dead albums. We've got a new little fan.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Barbeque for Grandpa Mike's Birthday

Last week was my dad's birthday, and we hadn't seen him and my stepmom in awhile, so we decided to get together and do something a little different.

So, we got together for a rather unusual barbeque. It was a special event at the Goodwill Store in Batavia, IL. You see, they had a special deal where if you brought in a bag of used goods, they'd give you free barbeque. They even had America's Chefs from Food Network's Diner's Drive-ins, and Dives preparing the food.

We had to keep Nick on his "tether" the whole time, because it was crazy busy there. There were huge lines and people carrying bags of old junk everywhere.

Nick was very active the whole time. He kept trying to go near the cars and run around. See my dad holding Henry? He's also holding onto Nick's leash. . . er, tether.

I like how Henry is looking up at his Grandpa in the picture above. I wonder what he's thinking?

My dad thought Nick's "tether" was pretty funny.

The food was pretty decent, and they had the biggest soup bowl I think I've ever seen. That's a lot of soup! I bet it all got eaten, though. The crowds were huge and it seemed like everyone in the western suburbs was in line, swarming around the food.


Henry took a nice long nap in the grass. He likes naps.

Hopefully my dad had a good birthday as well as some yummy barbeque.