Monday, January 19, 2009

A Bad Morning, But a Good Day

This morning, I woke up in a foul mood. I was up too late yet again last night, I didn't sleep very well, and Owen was up early (again). Owen was a little whiney this morning (not too bad, but I was already in a bad mood), and that made it worse. I called Ecih and left a voicemail canceling our playdate today. Then I called Jon at work and whined and cried about being tired, and he listened and made me feel a little better.

Then I finished my coffee...and I called Ecih back and left another voicemail telling her to disregard the first voicemail because we were coming after all. So we went, and had a great time. Owen behaved himself very well, and Ethan was so happy and cute! He had fun feeding me imaginary food from his toy frying pan. Owen had fun rumaging through Ethan's toy box, and pretending to call people on Ethan's toy phone.

The time came when we had to go home. Owen had become very attached to a spatula, so Ecih kindly told him to go ahead and take it home with him and we can give it back next time.

I'm glad I decided to go ahead and go. It put me in a MUCH better mood. The coffee probably helped too (I got some more on the way). We came home, had a quick lunch, and Owen went down for a much needed nap. Despite my grim outlook in the morning, I managed to get a ton of things done this afternoon, and enjoyed doing them. I threw some laundry in, did some light weeding in the front yard (had to take advantage of the rare sun today - the sun probably helped my mood as well), caught up on the dishes, roasted and pureed some butternut squash and sweet potatoes (see yesterday's post as to why), and did some knitting. Jon came home today, saw the bag-o-weeds that were on the front porch for lack of yard-waste bin, and was amazed. "You weeded too?! But I thought you were having a bad day!"

The pureeing went pretty well. I didn't want to take the time to find all of my food processor parts today, so I tried to use my blender. That didn't work well because I had to do it in really tiny batches or else the pulp would all just sit in one place. Then I remembered the immersion blender! That worked great. It probably wouldn't do so well for courser vegetables (I have tried peas before, and it doesn't work without a ton of extra liquid), but squash and potatoes responded very nicely. I used some of the butternut squash puree to make the grilled cheese recipe in "Deceptively Delicious". It was delicious, but not so deceptive. You could totally taste the squash in there. But it was very good, and Owen ate about half a sandwich for dinner (he had a big lunch or else he probably would have had more). The texture is a little odd too, but I think it is definitely a recipe that I can fiddle with to fit my family's preferences -- and, like I said, Owen ate it; so that's all that's really important. I look forward to trying out some of the other recipes.

Now, to keep myself from being cranky again in the morning, I'm going to get off the computer and start winding down for an earlier bedtime. 'Night!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Happy Birthday Ethan!

Today is Owen's cousin Ethan's 1st birthday! I can't believe it has been a year already! Yesterday there was a party at Mom and Dad's with lots of delicious food. We all had a great time, though Owen started to act up towards the end there, but after a few time outs, things got better again.

I haven't felt much like writing lately. I've just been so exhausted. Owen is cutting yet another tooth, and is back to being scary psycho toddler again. I'm trying to take it in stride, but after a week of it, it's been getting to me. It's funny - before Owen started teething, everyone told me that the first tooth is really awful, but then babies seem to get accustomed to it and it's not so bad. Maybe for some babies, bot never for Owen. Every tooth bothers him just as much as the first one did. The molars are even worse.

On top of that, I'm dealing with picky eating. That ketchup trick that I wrote about a few posts ago...that worked once. I've tried to give him green beans since then, and he won't have anything to do with them, ketchup or no ketchup. Peas? No way. I don't get it, he used to LOVE peas. Now, if it's green, forget it. It can't be good. He's pretty good about canned carrots (not fresh or frozen - they have to be canned. Disgusting), He will eat sweet potato fries at a restaurant (I haven't been able to make them correctly for him), and that's about it. As for fruit: raisins, applesauce, occasionally cubed raw apple (Fuji's only), banana (which I can't give him often because it stops him up, if you know what I mean), and sugary jammy berry fillings in things like snack bars are all I can get in him. This child prefers startch, meat, and cheese (and milk) to all other things.

So! I went out and bought Jessica Seinfeld's "Deceptively Delicious" today and am very excited to try some of these things out. Although I would prefer Owen to eat vegetables willingly, he's just not going to right now; so I see nothing wrong with hiding them in the things he loves. I will still offer veggies straight because he might accept them some day, but when he doesn't, at least I will know that he's still getting the nutrients that he needs.

Flipping through the recipes today, there were some hand-to-forehead moments (pureed carrot in spaghetti sauce? Of course!), and some "you're kidding, really?" moments (spinach in brownies? seriously? I've got to try that and see if it really works!) Seinfeld also sneaks in other nutritional ingredients, like flax seed and whole-grain everything. Jon and I picked a few recipes to start out with and bought some of the most frequently used veggies to puree this week. Cauliflower is used a lot, which makes sense, because it has no color and not a lot of flavor. It has a ton of Vitamin C though! Sweet Potatoes and Butternut Squash are used often too. Owen used to love these, but hasn't been interested lately (except for those fries, of course). Now I just have to dig the food processor parts out of the garage so that I can get puree-in'. I'll keep you all posted as to how well the recipes are accepted!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Healthier Banana Bread

I made my recipe for Healthier Banana Bread last night, and I thought that I ought to share it. I find it almost indistinguishable from regular banana bread. I based my recipe on the one in the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook*, but I altered it so that it has less fat and sugar, and I substituted some of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour. I also added a few more spices.



Housey Wifey's Healthier Banana Bread

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 quick dashes ground clove
1 generous dash allspice
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 medium very ripe bananas, mashed well (best when almost ready to be tossed)
1 and 1/8 cups Sugar
1 and 1/8 cups Splenda(R)
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Note: Not all of us have 1/8 cup measures sitting around. I know I don't. Rather than trying to calculate how many tablespoons 1/8 cup is, I just take a 1/4 cup measure and fill it halfway with sugar, and then pour the Splenda(R) on top of it to fill it the rest of the way. You don't need to be exact. If you want to make it completely sugar free, go ahead and experiment. I haven't tried it, so I can't tell you if it makes any difference.

1) Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl: both types of flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice

2) In a smaller bowl combine the mashed bananas, egg, sugar, Splenda(R), and applesauce.

3) Add the banana mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. The batter will be lumpy.

4) Fold in pecans, if desired.

5) Spoon batter into a greased 8x4x2 inch loaf pan (I have found a dark metal pan gives a better result than a glass one). Bake in the center of your oven for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean (a couple of moist crumbs on the toothpick are a good thing, but batter is not. Try not to overbake, or the result will be be dry and cakey).

6) Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on rack before cutting. This is very important. If you do not let it cool, the crust will harden. I know this from experience.

7) Once it is cool, you can go ahead and have a few slices, but it won't be the moist, sticky banana bread that we all know and love. It is best the next day after having been stored overnight in an airtight container. A 1-gallon resealable bag works really well in a pinch. It should last several days in a cool dark pantry.

Enjoy!



*The link is for a newer version of the cookbook than the one that I own. I think mine is 2000 or something. I could go look, but I'm lazy.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Weekend's Activities

OK, now that I have some time to sit down and write, I will go into some details about the little tidbits I posted last night. First of all, the flood. The Great Big Flood. We were trapped in Duvall all day Thursday and Friday. Jon had to work from home for the umpteenth time this winter, what with the flood in November (not as widespread, but still enough to trap us in Duvall) and of course the huge snow storm in December. Friday morning the waters began to recede, and it was quickly discovered that Woodinville-Duvall Road had been severly damaged.

This page on the King County website shows a picture of Woodinville-Duvall Road before the road crews got there. Not pretty. So, needless to say, it did not reopen right away. I must say, I am really impressed by the county's response. They had crews out there as soon as the damage was discovered, and it was fixed and open for use Sunday evening. Thank you, county, for actually responding in a timely manner. And a big thank you to all the workers who were out there fixing it in the cold and rain for, well, I don't know how many hours straight that they worked. They were probably still out there long after the sun went down.

Since we had no idea when the flooding started how long we would be stuck in town, we thought this might be a good weekend to do a domestic project. We have had a paint color picked for the family room for months, so we decided to go down to the hardware store and pick it up. Poor Owen had to be gated off in the front room for the weekend -- wet paint is bad enough, but curious fingers and un-plated wall sockets are obviously a bad mix. He was understandably not thrilled with this arrangement. We took him out places before and after naptimes to keep him from going stir crazy. The prepping and painting was only done while Owen was napping and after he went to bed, which would be why it took the entire weekend to paint a single wall. It was good though, because it forced us to be patient and let it dry more than we probably usually would before doing a second coat. And here is how it turned out:



It is bright and cheerful, and makes me feel happy whenever I look at it. It may be too bright for many people's tastes (I would have been afraid of it a couple years ago), but as the family room doubles as a playroom, we wanted something that was fun and playful, but also pleasing to the adults in the house. We used a Valspar paint chip, and had True Value match the color with their Benjamin Moore Eco Spec interior paint. This is some NICE paint. I have heard that eco paints, although better for the environment, leave much to be desired in most other aspects. But the Eco Spec seems to me to be indistinguishable from regular latex paint (high quality latex paint, in fact). It coated very well - we only needed two coats, which is what is recommended for most paints anyway. It has a wonderful sheen (eggshell semi-gloss is what we used), and is not dull or washed-out looking at all. The only thing that made it obvious that we were using eco-friendly paint was the fact that it barely smelled at all. This morning when I came downstairs, I didn't notice ANY smell. Of course, maybe I've just become accustomed to it. I hope this isn't starting to sound like a commercial.

The eco paint that we used in Owen's room when we first moved in was a different brand. I was not very impressed. The color was nice, but it was kind of watery; even after two coats (or did we do three? I can't remember now) there were still areas that needed more coverage. Unfortunately, we didn't have a lot of time to worry about it because we needed to move Owen into his room. So we just left it a little blotchy. A toddler isn't going to care. Maybe we'll fix it sometime, maybe we won't.

Anyway, Friday morning, to keep Owen occupied and because we were curious, we drove down to 124th to get some pictures of the flooding. You saw the main picture in yesterday's post. It's too small to make out, but that yellow sign says "Water Over Roadway." Cliche.

Here are a couple more pics:





Now, keep in mind that the water had gone down quite a bit by this time. Saturday, we discovered that the road up to Monroe (Hwy 203) was open, so we took a morning trip to Ben Franklin for bigger circular needles for my sweater. YAY! I'm moving right along on my sweater now.

And now that I've updated everyone, I'm going to go knit.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

It is late, so I don't really have time to write. But, I wanted to let everyone know what I have been up to this weekend (and why I have been too busy to blog).

I have been flood-watching:



I have been knitting:



And most time consuming of all, I have been painting:



Yes, I removed the artwork before we got to that part of the wall. No, we didn't paint around it. More about all of this tomorrow. Until then, I hope everyone else has had an interesting (preferably a good kind of interesting) weekend as well. Oh, and happy anniversary (yesterday) Mom and Dad!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

He's back!

The super-crazed toddler has left the building and my sweetheart is back! Last night he went right to sleep (early too) and slept until after 7, with just one minor crying episode at 5:45 when he didn't have one of his binkies and wasn't awake enough to try looking for it. As soon as I located it and he had it clutched tightly in his hand, he rolled right over and went back to sleep.

So far today, he has not been cranky, he has only had one small time-out for climbing onto the coffee table, and he has been active and giggly. He has taken a new delight in pulling a chair out from the kitchen table, climbing up onto it (this is quite a production), and sitting up at the table like a grown-up. He wants to eat his snacks that way, and I let him as long as he keeps the messy ones (ie: graham crackers) at the table. If he wants to get down, he needs to leave the snack behind.

Speaking of eating, I discovered a fantastic trick for getting Owen to eat his vegetables: give him ketchup to dip them in! He ate ALL of his green beans at lunch this way. Sounds disgusting, I know, but I tried one and it's actually not that bad. It covers up the frozen green bean flavor quite nicely (I prefer fresh except in green bean casserole, but with a toddler, you have to be able to cook some things up quickly.) Granted, he did end up with ketchup in his hair, but that's fine. If it gets him to eat something green, I can certainly live with him smelling faintly vinegary until his nightly bath. Last night I mixed some mashed peas in with ketchup and he dipped his chicken nuggets and baked fries in it. I tried giving him just the mashed peas on their own first, but he just wanted to play with them and refused to put any in his mouth. I had tried mashing the peas because he no longer will eat them whole, even though he loved them that way several months ago. I thought maybe a spoon would make them more fun. Fun, yes? Edible, apparently not. But with ketchup? Now that's a whole different story. (By the way, mashed peas and ketchup look really disgusting, but Owen didn't mind as long as they were no longer green, I guess.)

Another funny thing: So, a few weeks ago, when we got our first snow of the winter (little did we know we were about to be snowed in for over a week), I realized that Owen did not have any mittens for which to go play in the snow with the next morning. So I found an easy pattern on Ravelry and frantically knit him up a pair in the space of about 3 hours. The mittens didn't work very well because I misread the pattern and didn't put enough rows of ribbing on the wrist part to help keep them on. We spent the entire outing the next day picking up mittens and shoving them back onto wiggly little hands that didn't really want them on in the first place. It was much too cold to let him go without them though, so we persevered, and made the outing a short one. The next day, before the bigger dumping of snow occurred, Jon drove into town to gather supplies and found some better mittens for Owen there.

This story is going somewhere, I promise....

So today, I had Owen help me switch laundry loads by handing him wet bibs and such from the washer and having him put them in the dryer. He did a very good job of it. After I closed the dryer and started a new load of wash, he wanted to stay and watch everything being tossed around through the windows on the washer and dryer doors. I obliged, and we watched and pointed and said "Oooh!" a lot. But then Owen became interested in the buttons (as he always eventually does), so I had to get him out of there lest he mess up the settings. He didn't want to go, so as I gently shoved him backwards out the door, I grabbed one of the defunct mittens off of the drying rack (yes, it was still sitting there after all this time) and handed it to him. This was a sufficent distraction, and he took it out into the family room and examined it for a minute. Then he took it over to his little kitchen, stuck his hand in it, picked up his toy frying pan while wearing it, and put the pan in the oven. He turned it into and oven mitt! Can you believe this kid's imagination? He's only 20 months old, and yet he is SO observant. Maybe this is normal for his age, and maybe it's not -- but either way, he never ceases to amaze me.

Of course, after the initial disbelief, the obsessive knitter in me started elaborate plans in my head on how I might go about knitting him an oven mitt that's easier for him to use (he can't put his thumb in the thumb-hole on his own, so he was having a little difficulty gripping the pan well). Oooh! And maybe his own little potholder or dishcloth or something too! Some of you are probably rolling your eyes right now. It's okay, I know that I'm rapidly approaching the deep-end with this knitting obsession, but at least I haven't started spinning yet (You know I will some day). And I try to be economical with the yarns that I buy....so far.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Pizza and Beer

The Munchkin has not gone to bed nicely (yet again), despite being exhausted, and has basically taken up my entire evening of winding-down time. I can still hear him stirring now and then over the monitor. Perhaps it's the nasty windstorm that's keeping him awake. Or the fact that he went down for a nap late because I spent too much time at Target. Or both. BUT, at least he ate some good meals today, and hasn't been drooling as much or gnawing on everything in site. He hasn't been super cranky either, so I'm hoping (please don't let this jinx it) that he's starting to get over his weird crazed-toddler phase.

Speaking of good meals, Jon and I made pizza from scratch today. Actually, I started the dough yesterday afternoon, let it rise once, punched it down and stuck it in the fridge overnight per recipe instructions. I pulled it out around 2:30 this afternoon, divided it in half, and let it rise a second time. Then, we made pizza! Here's a tip: don't wear black while tossing pizza dough.



Not my best look. I love how the flour eccentuates every tummy bulge, surrounding a little dark area where my belly button is supposed to be. Gorgeous. Unfortunately, that is the only picture of the dough being tossed in the air, so it will have to do. I used the dough recipe from the "California Pizza Kitchen Cookbook", by Larry Flax and Rick Rosenfield. It has really nice step-by-step instructions with photos for pizza dough virgins like me. It even has instructions on tossing a pizza. Not the fancy trick-tossing like you see at some pizza parlors, but just your basic stretching and tossing. I think I'm starting to get the hang of it. I had to pinch a couple of small holes closed when I was done though. The instructions also said to liberally flour the dough before working it. I think that may have been a practical joke of the authors'. I'm sure it didn't really need as much flour as that. By the way, flour does not feel very nice when it lands on your eyeball.

Besides the dust storm, I quite enjoyed it. We laid the two pizzas next to each other on a baking sheet (we have a pizza stone, which would have been better, but it's still buried in a box in the garage somewhere) and piled on the toppings. Very yummy from-scratch tomato sauce that Jon made (from the same cookbook), green peppers, mild Italian sausage, and lots of Mozzarella. We decided not to try any of the fancy toppings from the book on our first go 'round.



Then we baked the pizzas in a 500 degree (F) oven for about 8 minutes, until the cheese had yummy brown spots all over it.


Just look at those cheese strings:



Then we happily sat down and ate it with our current favorite ale, Smithwicks (pronounced "Smiddicks." I know this because I have been corrected at the local Irish Pub). Jon was pleasantly surprised to find it in the beer case at QFC on a recent shopping trip. It purports to be Ireland's oldest ale (that is still around, anyway). It is tasty in the bottle, but much better on tap, as with most ales.



Anyway, our pizzas turned out to be very tasty. Pizza (singular) actually. Half each was plenty filling, so the second one is anxiously awaiting us in the fridge for tomorrow night. The crust came out great - nice and crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside. But it didn't taste quite as good as it does when you get it at CPK. After much discussion, we decided that was because they are baking it in a well-seasoned and much hotter stone oven, so the crust gets some more carmelization and therefore tastes a little sweeter. Either that, or the authors left a little something out of the recipe so that people would not, when finding out how easy and fun it is to make their own CPK pizza, stop coming to the restaurant. I would like to think it is the first reason, wouldn't you?

On the knitting front, I did not get to Ben Franklin today to buy bigger needles because I spent too much time running other "more important" (whatever) errands. It looks like my sweater will just have to wait. That's fine, because I have other unfinished projects to keep me occupied until I can get the supplies that I need.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Frogged

The reason why I never got back on after the last post to put up a picture of the progress of my sweater, is because after about 4 inches of knitting, I frogged the darn thing. You see, even though I know better, I did not knit a qauge swatch. Why? I couldn't tell ya. I went brain dead for an evening, I guess. I sort of thought about it after a couple of rows, but by then I was already in the groove of things, so I thought I would just wait until I had knit enough rows and then measure my gauge on the sweater itself. Well guess what? I was an inch short. So last night I bit my lip and frogged it. Then, just to make sure, I knit a real gauge swatch. Sure enough, the width was still short by an inch. The height was right on though. I can't remember, but I think the width is what I really need to be worried about. I'm hoping one needle size up will do the trick, because if I need to go any more than that, my sweater will be very see-through. Just with the needles that I was already using, I noticed that it will definitely be requiring a shirt underneath. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I guess it doesn't really matter, since I tend to layer anyway.

If I'm going to get new needles, I'm going to have to get them tomorrow or else wait several days. I was going to go today, but it snowed (AGAIN) last night and was still a bit slushy on my street this morning. I don't trust my driving skills enough to want to risk that. The snow is gone now, but the valley is under a flood watch for Wednesday and Thursday so I'm likely to be isolated to my little town tomorrow. Would you believe that in a town surrounded by farmland, there is NO LOCAL YARN STORE??????? I have seen sheep nearby. Why is there no yarn? This makes no sense to me.

In other news, the munchkin has been very whiney and cranky the last several days. He is picking at his food and isn't napping well. I can't tell if it's his teeth, or growing pains, or what? I think it might be a combination of the two. I hope he gets over it soon, because he is just miserable. In fact, if he doesn't start acting normal in a few days, I might just have to call his pediatrician to make sure there isn't anything really wrong with him. This has been going on for about a week now, which is longer than his usual out-of-sortedness. And of course, when the toddler isn't happy, nobody's happy.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Recovering from the New Year

I've fallen a little behind on my housework resolution, but I have had several social engagements this week and of course friends and family are much higher on my list of important things than keeping the house spic and span. A good friend that I have known since kindergarten is in town for the holidays, and we don't get to see eachother very often anymore, so that has been wonderful! I also got together with some other good friends that I don't see very often (I actually don't get to see most of my friends very often anymore. I'm hoping to be better about that this year, now that the kiddo is older and a little more flexible schedule-wise). It has been great fun! Yesterday I threw a little pasta-making party with my Mom and two of the afformentioned friends, using the new pasta attachments that I got for Christmas. We made the Light Wheat Pasta recipe from the handbook/manual and it was very tasty. I sort of picked a bad recipe for the alfredo sauce though, but Erin, being much better at cooking than I am, saved it. Emily and my mom chopped up veggies for a salad, and we tied it all together with some glasses of wine (except for Erin, because she's pregnant) and had a very nice lunch. Afterwards, between toddler distractions (a slightly crazed toddler who barely napped) we sat around the table and just yukked it up for hours. Then, Erin and my Mom had to go home, but Emily was able to stay long enough to have dinner out at the Grange Cafe while Jon stayed home and watched the kiddo. I can't stress how great it was to be able to get some real girl time. I really have to make it a point to do that kind of thing more often. Although Owen was slightly hyper and very overtired, in general he was pretty good. And of course, he LOVES people, and was just basking in all of the attention from everyone.

But, all of the social engagements this week have left me pretty tired, so today Jon and I are just taking it easy. I'm catching up on laundry, because that's fairly easy, and getting some relaxing knitting time in.

I just couldn't control myself any longer and started my sweater last night. For the record, I did start one of the other projects I need to do the day before, and worked on it last night while I was waiting for Owen to finally conk out for the night (he was exhausted from barely napping, but do you think he would go to sleep? Most certainly not! It took him about an hour and a half to fall asleep, and then he was up early this morning - and very cranky. Sheesh!). Once Owen had been quiet for more than 10 minutes, I figured I was safe to work on something that required some concentration. I giddily brought my supplies downstairs, plopped on the couch, and started my sweater. I have never, ever used circular needles before. I have avoided them like the plague, in fact - finding that double pointeds work just fine for me. Also, I don't need to buy several different lengths of the same size needles when I use dpns. But, I have also never knit an adult-size sweater. After much thought I decided that, as a sweater is much larger than a sock or a hat, I should probably just bite the bullet and buy the recommended circular needles. I have not yet reached the point in the pattern where I join the ends and knit in the round (the yoke is worked flat for a while due to the button-up slit in the shoulder), so I can't tell you how I'm doing with that yet, but so far I have successfully been knitting flat with just the single set of needles. So far so good! And the yarn that I'm using (see previous post) is just so soft and nice to work with. Maybe a tad splitty, but all and all very good.

Later tonight, if I have time, I will take a picture of my progress for ya. I keep meaning to figure out how to add a little sidebar that shows what projects I'm working on and my progress, but that takes time away from knitting, so I haven't gotten around to it yet.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

No Time to Blog - Must Knit!

...but I have to share that I got a belated Christmas present today, and it was this!:



That's not what I'm going to knit with tonight though, and it makes me kind of sad. But I have a few other projects (not long projects) that I ought to finish first (or at least start) for some other people before I get to play with my beautiful yarn.

I'm planning on using my new yarn to make the "Textured Tunic with Side Buttons" from "Fitted Knits" by Stefanie Japel.

Okay, that's all. Gotta go knit now.

Oh! And Happy New Year, everyone!