Hilton Village 4th of July

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They told us kids AND dogs are in the parade.

Our old-school historic neighborhood proudly maintains many traditions, among them a 4th of July parade down Main Street. Wagons, bicycles, strollers, a historic fire truck, a modern fire truck, classic cars, and lots of happy faces were decked out in red, white and blue. A neighbor held a block party brunch where we decorated our vehicles the morning of the parade and then congregated after for some amazing potluck treats and good conversation. Both Madeline and Henry had a great time.

Getting ready:

And now, the parade (which started off with motorcycles before the grand marshal and reminded me of my time in the Disney Stars and Motorcars Parade):

The parade ends at the elementary school, where everyone in the parade gathers to watch the rest of it. Some of the vehicles are parked so that the kids can explore them. The neighborhood milkman also has a tent where you can sample the dairy’s products.

Then we headed back for brunch and a day of barbecues with the neighbors.

Christmas 2014

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Christmas2014_132 2014 might well be our last year to sleep in on Christmas Day for quite a while. (Last year’s photos are here.) Madeline had been asking to open the gifts under the tree, but she doesn’t yet understand the concept of Christmas Day. This year’s holiday was all about introducing her to the tree, to decorating it with ornaments, to seeing the Nutcracker (a kids version put on by the Rock School), wrapping presents, and now opening them.

With a little help getting started, she’s gotten the hang of ripping off wrapping paper. First came a Hess truck with a space cruiser and a little baby scout ship. The space cruiser emits sound effects upon swerving or diving, making it a big hit with Daddy (and baby).

Next, we have a family of Calico Critters, the Woodbrook Beaver Family.

Then some snow mittens, a detour to the trash (“srash”), and Brio trains!

And in the biggest box was a Safari Express train set, a perfect finale to Madeline’s Christmas morning.

Madeline had a present for Daddy, but she was somewhat reluctant to give it.

What’s a holiday without coloring on your face?

Some shots with the afternoon sunlight.

Christmas dinner.

Some evening shots of the tree.

Madeline ended her Christmas day by laying her head in Mommy’s lap and falling asleep on the hard wood floor. Mommy was unable to move for the next half hour.

 

Brining the turkey

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Unorthodox use of medical tape # 152: decreasing the potential space of your turkey brining bag to increase the brine coverage of your turkey.

brining the turkey with some help from medical tape and a  binder clip

brining the turkey with some help from medical tape and a binder clip

As is most of my cooking, the brine was concocted with approximate guidelines and inspired by stuff available in the cupboard:

  • kosher salt, about 1 cup
  • honey, about 1 cup
  • sugar, about 1cup
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled, crushed and minced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • some bay leaves
  • varying quantities of clove, nutmeg, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme — I honestly don’t know if these come through with everything else going on
  • balsamic vinegar to taste

All of the above were dissolved in 3 qts boiling water and reduced to a simmer for about 10 minutes. I let the brine cool for about 20 minutes, then added about 2 qts warm water to help cool it down more. When mixture felt comfortably warm (not hot enough to cook the bird) we poured it over an 18+lb turkey in the brining bag. It’s now sitting in the fridge in its roasting pan, taped up as shown above.

We shall find on Thursday whether the brine was a good idea or not. Update: turkey was ah. may. zing. And the turkey stew we made from it was the best we’ve had.

“Peek boo!”

With Madeline strapped in her booster seat (so as to stay out of my way), I began to assemble her teepee. She kept squealing “Wow! Eeeee!” as it took shape. Then Daddy inadvertently set her loose and she started playing in it before I was finished with assembly (note the ouch-waiting-to-happen slippage on the wood floor). For our small apartment, I suppose this teepee is an acceptable use of 9 sq ft.

Spring 2014

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13 months: attempting balcony escape

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13 months: swing fun at Smith Playground

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13 months: the year’s first spring weather weekend

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cruising the park

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M holds her legs straight out when she’s happy

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13 months: getting acquainted with the top of the activity cube

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14 months: learning to use a spoon

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14 months: painting Henry with food

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Daddy’s birthday — what is that?

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spiffy work gear

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Hi again, Henry.

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15 months: M already loves shoes just like Mommy!

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15 months: showing Mama how the shapes go together

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Stacking blocks, dancing, and escaping to the balcony

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Today was a big day of firsts for Madeline – at least, the first time that we’ve caught her at these particular forms of mischief.

First, she climbed over the threshold of the office onto the balcony. The baby-proofing challenge just bumped up a level.

Next, she started dancing to daddy’s electronica dance music (who knew Chris had this???). Before, she would bounce here and there, but today she sustained a full-out baby bop until she fell over, then got up and bopped some more.

Finally, Madeline showed us she can stack blocks. I made a two-block stack and asked her to try, and she took my two-block unit and put it on top of a third block. (Baby’s way of showing up Mommy.) Then with a “Yeeaahhh!!” she knocked them down. Then she stacked three blocks by herself.

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Galactagogue cookies (which sounds way better than lactation cookies)

The first trial of motherhood I have encountered is suckling my child. Pregnancy and delivery were cake compared to breastfeeding. One of the challenges is maintaining an appropriate supply — apparently all kinds of subtle cues can throw it out of whack. And while undersupply is an obvious potential problem, I also learned that oversupply can be a frustration all its own.

Somewhere in my history of surfing the interwebs, I had come across lactation cookies. At the time, I thought, “Ummmm, weird.” How foolish and naive of me. Undersupply can be such a source of anxiety for moms, so what better way to address it than a baked concoction that both soothes and treats it?!

Below is a recipe I found at The Progressive Parent and adapted to my own preferences. I cannot attest to whether the cookies do statistically increase milk supply. I can attest only to their nutritionally dense yumminess.

sweet chocolatey oatmeal goodness.

sweet chocolatey oatmeal goodness.

Lactation Cookies

— with oatmeal and whatever goodies you like — my favorite is craisins and white chocolate/dark chocolate chips! For one 9″ x 13″ pan of bar cookies* (because I don’t have time to drop them into individual cookies — if you prefer normal round cookies, see variation below**):

Ingredients

  • 2 oz (4 tbsp) water
  • 2 tbsp milled flaxseed
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (3 minutes on 20% power works for me, and then I use the wax wrappers to grease the pan)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1.75 cups flour**
  • 4 tbsp brewer’s yeast
  • 1 tsp baking soda (or 4 tsp baking powder)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cups thick rolled oats
  • 1.5-2 cups mixed chocolate chips/white chips/craisins, in whatever proportions you like — I do 1 cup craisins, 1/3 cup chocolate chips, and 2/3 cup white chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 deg F. In a small bowl, stir together the water and flaxseed. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and beat in the sugar. Then beat in the eggs and vanilla. Add the flaxseed mixture from step 1 and stir.
  3. Stir together the flour,** yeast, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir this dry ingredient mixture into the large bowl to form the cookie dough.
  4. Combine the cookie dough with the oats and craisin/chip mix. This step requires biceps or a stand mixer — the dough will be thick.
  5. Spread in a greased 9″ x 13″ pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until edges are brown and inserted knife comes out clean. Don’t bake for too long or the cookies will crumble.*
  6. Wait for the cookie pan to cool, cut it into bars, grab a glass of milk, and enjoy!

*If you double the recipe to make two pans, they will take about 25 minutes to bake. I might or might not know this empirically.

**If you prefer the usual individual round cookies rather than bars, add an extra 0.25 cup of flour (total 2 cups flour). You can then drop teaspoonfuls — or, for the perfectionists who aim for pi-worthy circles, roll into balls — and bake 10-12 minutes. This is still too much work to me, so I prefer to spread the dough on a greased sheet of wax paper (cooking spray is quick and sufficient for greasing), roll it into a log about 2″ diameter, wrap with plastic wrap, and freeze for at least 2 hours. Let thaw about 20 minutes at room temp and slice 1/2″ thick. Since they are frozen, they bake for 11-13 minutes.

 

 

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Valentine’s Day Surprise

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Welcome to our world, Madeline.

Sweet potato pie

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An experiment for lab party tomorrow! I tried one of the baby pies and am a fan =)

in honor of our upcoming trip, a sweet potato pie mickey

finally tried out our mini cocottes!

 

  • 1 lb (about 2) sweet potatoes, peeled, cubed and cooked
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 14 oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 package (4-serving size) vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp lemon peel
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 unbaked pie crust to fit your pie pan

Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Prepare pie crust in (9″ to 12″) pie pan. Beat sweet potato until fluffy. Add all remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour into pie crust. Bake 40 minutes or until golden and center is set.

Crockpot creamy chicken and noodles

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I have since revised the recipe, so try the new one instead!

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Cold weather inspires me to experiment with the slow cooker. What’s more cozy on a cold day than being home with Chris, Henry and a warm meal of comfort food?

crockpot creamy chicken and noodles

The first one I tried this season is from The Crockstar. I am trying to gather recipes that are easy to prepare ahead and/or on a week night, especially since I foresee family meals will become a major responsibility — I can’t eat cereal for dinner like a college student anymore. (Well, I can, but Chris can’t — he needs protein. A lot of it.) The Crockstar’s recipe for Creamy Chicken and Noodles fit my search criteria. I tried it with a few modifications to fit our tastes, and it was a success! By which I mean: Chris approved. We’ve made it twice now.

Side note: I did some research trying to find a more descriptive name for this combination of ingredients and found several similar recipes for “Chicken Stroganoff,” but I disagree with that designation. The principal ingredients for a Stroganoff seem to be a sauteed meat — usually beef, but it can also be chicken — and a sour cream sauce, usually made with sauteed mushrooms and onions. This recipe has no sour cream, mushrooms, or onions.

Crockpot Creamy Chicken and Noodles

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 lbs boneless skinless chicken (dark or white meat), cut in 1″ cubes or smaller
  • 11 oz condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 11 oz condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 packet (about 1 oz) dry vegetable dip mix (I like Lipton Recipe Secrets Kosher Soup & Dip Mix because it doesn’t contain MSG; you could also try dry ranch, Italian dressing, or onion dip mix)
  • 1 tsp onion powder (optional but tasty)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (optional but tasty)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus 1 cup water (or substitute 4 cups water if you prefer less salt and more vegetable flavor)
  • 2 oz (1/4 package) cream cheese or neufchatel cheese (which tastes like lower-fat cream cheese), cut in small slices/pieces (you could also substitute sour cream)
  • 1 bunch celery, sliced 1/4″ thick
  • 12 oz (1 package) wide egg noodles

Directions:

  1. In the crockpot, combine the two soups with the 2 cups of broth. Add half the dry dip mix and stir all together until smooth.
  2. Lay the chicken pieces in the pot and season it with the remaining dip mix, onion powder, and garlic powder.
  3. Set the slow cooker to Low for 8 hours or High for 4 hours.
    ** The remaining steps can be done an hour or two before the cook time is completed, or they can be done after 8 hours on Low. Leaving the slow cooker for 4 hours on High might burn or dehydrate the sauce around the edges of the pot. **
  4. Add the cup of water, cream cheese, and celery. Stir well to mix. (If this step is done after the cooker has finished 8 hours on Low and it has switched to Warm, set the temperature to High.)
  5. Cook the egg noodles al dente, about 7 minutes. Add the noodles to the crockpot and stir well to mix. If the sauce is too thick, add more water in 1/2-cup increments.
  6. Simmer until the chicken is cooked and the celery is tender.

Thanksgiving 2012

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This year was our first married Thanksgiving. For weeks, Chris had been excited to roast his first turkey, and I was equally excited for stuffing! We made a game plan, did our grocery shopping, and went to bed (relatively) early the night before so we could get started at 7am. Thursday morning came. Game on.

Well, the first hiccup came early — I had trouble sleeping, so we slept in an extra hour. We adjusted and got right back on schedule, though. (Yes, we made a schedule.) As it turns out, we learned a number of things:

  • Chopping the vegetables the night before means we don’t have to get started until 8am. Whoo hoo!
  • Our 24-pound turkey took about 5.5 hours to cook. By about 3 hours, enough fat had drained off to baste it.
  • We do not have a platter big enough to hold a 24-pound turkey. Fortunately, a smaller platter on a baking sheet will suffice.
  • Potholders can also be trivets.
  • The day is not nearly as busy as I thought. We had breaks to to watch Star Trek, set the table, and so forth. It was easier than cooking for the party we just had! (Then again, we had over 30 people there.)

I also took notes on miscellaneous adjustments to our schedule and recipes. Here is the result of our Thanksgiving Matrix (which obviously is not formally a matrix, but sounds niftier than Thanksgiving Chart):

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the Thanksgiving Matrix, stained and annotated as we used it to guide us through our first Thanksgiving!

And here is the resulting feast:

Having slept well with the aid of turkey somnolence, we dismantled the bird this morning. Henry also helped, sort of.

My two handsome boys

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We had a potluck party at our house a few weeks ago. We hadn’t invited people over for a long time, and it was great to see so many friends!

After everyone left, we took a break to watch QI. I said we should start cleaning up, and Chris said we should finish the episode. Five minutes later, I hear snoring:

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“I’ll help clean up after this show.”

I let him sleep.

The next night I took these pictures of my two handsome boys, hanging out on the couch.

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OHHHHH I like the belly scratches!

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Daddy and Puppy

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One hand must be reserved for scratches

Hydrangeas fade gracefully

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a new bunch is growing!

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see the center miniature flower -- i wonder what it does

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Horseplay

Henry loves playtime with Chris!

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Balcony flowers

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20120512 Balcony Flowers: Hydrangeas and Petunias

Last week, Chris and I planted our first spring flowers. I love hydrangeas, especially since our florist Leaves of Grass used them in my bouquet. Also, they change color depending on soil pH! So as a chemistry nerd I have to love them.

The hydrangeas look more purple-pink than blue here; we can fiddle with the pH once they’ve established themselves. We also have petunias in the middle.

Henry misses Chris

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When Chris went away on a business trip, Henry moped. “Daddy’s gone on business, who will play with me?” he says.

Daddy's gone on business, who will play with me?

 

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