Sunday, February 23, 2014

February 23 is now bittersweet

February 23, 2010 is the day I became a mom.  The other night I stayed up way too late looking through pictures from that day and the 5 1/2 weeks in the NICU that followed.  Old, raw emotions surfaced as I thought about what a roller coaster ride their early days were.  But on Sunday we celebrated my two littles, who aren't so little anymore, as they turned FOUR.  So far the verdict is, "I love being four!" from both handsome men.  And according to them red is their favorite color (although just today Gavin said his was blue); Super Man is strong; Daddy hangs the moon; Katharine is 'so stinkin' cute; Jay is their best friend at school; their muscles are big and their brains are smart; Garrett loves cantaloupe; Gavin loves watermelon; they both love orange ice cream and raspberry ice cream; they can dress themselves, clear their dishes from the table at mealtime, and have become excellent cleaner uppers; they love to build contraptions (constructing marble runs and setting up Mouse Trap might be foreshadowing some engineering degrees); anything race car or truck related is cherished; and playing games fills up much of our time (Bingo, War, Go Fish, Candy Land, Sequence, Chutes and Ladders, Connect Four, Super Why, hide and seek...I'm telling you, they're pros).  Oh, and let me not forget that they are excellent make believers and eavesdropping on those moments is most hilarious.

Our celebratory weekend kicked off with a visit to the Monster Truck Show with Pops as the favorite guest.  Nana spent quality time with Katharine at home and upon our return we had pizza and cupcakes for dinner.  The next day (their actual bday) we headed to Krispy Kreme, per request, of course.  At lunch the boys went nuts over fresh cantaloupe and watermelon (proud mom moment because...1) something healthy was needed to round out all the treats; 2) they were just as happy to get their own melons as they were to get their own cupcakes).  Thanks to a 70 degree day, I decided to invite some friends and their kiddos over for an impromptu bday playdate in our backyard!  8 adults, 12 kids, lots of toys, lots of noise.  Last minute, comfortable company certainly makes for the best kind of parties.  In between all of the hullabaloo, the boys played with their new toys and games and practiced riding their new bikes!  Big things to come, for sure:) 

February 23 is also now marked as the day Grandma Moss left us for good.  Aunt Mary Ann shared a few words and so did Aunt Carol on the day's event.  My second grandparent to pass, she went peacefully in her sleep.  Her body was frail, dementia had taken the best of her mind.  I'm quite certain that her sisters are throwing her a welcome party (I hope she finds something other to wear than her classic house dress she donned most of the time) and getting her garden beds prepped; Grandpa is saying, "Oh s$&t, I better be on my best behavior; Moxie (their dog) is running circles at her feet; and The Big Man is giving her a fresh bottle of holy water to replace her vinegar.  No lie, she once sprinkled vinegar on the wheels of our car before we left for a trip.  A devout Catholic, she frequently prayed the rosary and blessed us with holy water.  She was a military wife and moved her four children to various parts of the world every few years, but in the next phase of her life she was a homebody and loved to garden and watch her bird bath.  She made yummy enchiladas with mole sauce and set her egg timer for everything.  When I was little I have vivid memories of swinging in her backyard, making green Jello popsicles, and listening to records in her dining room.  She had a way of saying my name that made it sound like "Kreeesy," in her sweet voice with a slight Spanish accent and minor inflection at the end.  I also remember the infamous argument from a family reunion trip during the summer I turned 10.  I think everyone was up in arms about how to best wrap up the leftover meat or what to do with the potato that Grandma accidentally dumped too much pepper on.  Important issues, you know.  She visited me twice in college, and during my first year teaching I spent my Spring Break vacation with her.  I'm most thankful for the trips that allowed my children to meet her.  Her face lit up at the sight of her great grandchildren.  Those encounters may not be remembered by the youngest and oldest involved, but thankfully we have the pictures to prove it.  In the meantime we have time to grieve and process all of this.  We will celebrate Grandma's life in the spring.  

Everything that's swirling around in my head is just plain sad, but there is delight and humor in remembering and learning about her quirks.  I'm sitting here revisiting Aunt Carol's page and Angie comes to life again in many of the posts tagged 'family' in the archives.  Aunt Carol also discusses end of life care and important talks to have so one's wishes are known.  Have you done that?  My dad and I have.  Joe is still on the fence about a few decisions.  Maybe it feels weird.  Personally, I think it'd make it easier on everyone to plan my own funeral.  I texted my dear friend today to give her the run down in case Dad and/or Joe are not able to make sound decisions regarding my farewell party.  It said, "I want to be cremated.  If a family member needs/wants a place to go to mourn me then get me a cheap headstone and bury a little of me there.  Spread the rest of me in the ocean so I'm all over the world and then have a big ol' party with good music (preferably U2 and oldies), BBQ, fresh pineapple, and lots of gooey chocolate desserts.  No sadness, just funny Krissyisms (mood swings and all).  The only church songs allowed are 'On Eagles Wings' and 'In the Garden.'  However, gospel songs are perfectly acceptable, but only if a large black woman is singing them properly (no, that is not meant to be derogatory, gospel music is just delivered most beautifully that way).  And make sure people clap for her because I hate silent church awkwardness.  You got all this?"

In typical circle-of-life fashion, we celebrated the growth of two lives as another one left us for good this weekend.  Cliche but true....the beat goes on.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Quiet and Awesome and Boring

Today has been quiet and low key and a totally boring kind of awesome.  Here's my top 10 reasons why...

1) Despite being paged by the child care center at the gym twice on Friday and none of the running girls meeting on Saturday, I ended up getting in a great run on the dreadmill (yes, dread, but it wasn't so bad) to kick off the weekend.

2) Friday was family movie night at the boys' school and there is something to be said for reliving the magic of one of my childhood favorites through the eyes of my kids. 

3) The boys had a sleepover at Nana and Pops house, to which they counted down all week!  So, thanks to said sleepover and Hannah-the-rockstar-babysitter, Joe and I enjoyed a date night at one of our favorite restaurants.  Good company, good wine, and worthwhile food coma.

4) The good news in the latest getting-baby-girl-to-sleep-through-the-night saga is that we're into a pretty good routine and only up once a night.  The bad news is that our day starts at 5:30.  But today I crawled back into bed at 7:30 and slept for a glorious two hours.

5) Our lazy morning was capped off with good coffee and breakfast on the run as we ventured out to the new house.  Yes, new house.  Big things have been happening around here and the [packing] madness is about to begin.  Add to the awesomeness that an old friend has given us oodles of packing boxes and supplies!

6) After visiting said new house, we stopped by Lowe's to look at all things know fridges, cook tops, paint colors, washers and I said, a boring kind of awesome.  And maybe there was a little hop in my step because I find all of this quite exciting, despite being totally overwhelmed by the notion of decorating an entire house.  Help is welcome.

7) Lunch was Nutella and banana on an English muffin.  And I didn't have to cook for anyone else.  And no one fought me for the Nutella jar.  And I didn't even have to clean up little faces or a high chair or slimy dishes when all was said and done.  That awesome sleepover turned into an all day play date.

8) Nap time was long and quiet and rid of anxiety of when I might hear the stomp stomps of heavy feet, knowing that today I was not on borrowed time.  It was spent aimlessly on the computer catching up on emails and browsing my new favorite app, Houzz, for once again, all things domestic: a dining room chandelier, kitchen lighting options, the perfect curtains, and cork board ideas.

9) My chocolate craving was quickly fixed with a batch of brownies whipped up from scratch.  And licking the bowl was oh so good.

10) In looking ahead at the calendar this week, it's empty!  EMPTY!  Rejoice!  With the exception of bringing a new mommy friend dinner (which I have to cook for my family anyway), we have no obligations!  

Awesomely boring, indeed. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

In the kitchen: Soup on a cold night never disappoints

It's been ages since I've shared a recipe.  To be honest, I haven't cooked much since last summer.  And when I mean cook I don't mean just throw some chicken in the oven and dump a salad in the bowl from a bag...I mean find the recipe, prep the veggies, let stuff saute, sweat, simmer, stir everything together myself, shape the patties by hand, mix the dough myself, etc.  Usually just before dinnertime we are all playing outside, so by the time everyone comes in we're all hungry and I just put together whatever I can find the fastest.  With the cold temps/snow keeping us closer to home and indoors lately I pulled out my soup pot and a favorite recipe.  Cold weather and good soup go hand in hand.  I've been known to quadruple a recipe so my pot is almost overflowing and then freeze small batches for easy dinners down the road.  I've also been eying a new recipe to try and perfectly enough had all the ingredients on hand (including plenty of kale thanks to my newest kitchen toy: the Vitamixer, in which we make green smoothies daily.  But I digress.)  So when it all came together we had a pretty hearty, healthy, meat-free meal (which never happens around here) at dinnertime.  And yes, both dishes were kid-approved (#happymom).

(from Alton Brown and Food Network)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 pound lentils, picked and rinsed
1 cup peeled and chopped tomatoes
2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground toasted cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground grains of paradise

Notes: None of my spices were 'freshly' ground.  Grains of paradise is in the same family as cardamom and ginger.  I didn't have grains of paradise so I used 1/4t ginger, 1/4t all spice, and 1/4 star anise.  As for the tomatoes, a whole can (15oz) of diced tomatoes worked fine.  I also had a small amount of wild rice (maybe 1/3c), so I tossed that in as well.

Place the olive oil into a large 6-quart Dutch oven and set over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion, carrot, celery and salt and sweat until the onions are translucent, approximately 6 to 7 minutes. Add the lentils, tomatoes, broth, coriander, cumin and grains of paradise and stir to combine. Increase the heat to high and bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook at a low simmer until the lentils are tender, approximately 35 to 40 minutes. Using a stick blender, puree to your preferred consistency. Serve immediately.

Notes: I did not blend the soup...we liked it chunky.  I did not serve it immediately.  I made everything at naptime and we ate later that evening.  It all came together fine.

KALE QUINOA PATTIES (way better than a veggie burger!)
2 ½ c cooked quinoa, cooled
4 cup kale, cleaned, deveined, chopped small
3 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ yellow onion, diced small
½ cup chives, chopped
½ cup Parmesan, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus more for frying

Combine quinoa, eggs, Parmesan, chives and salt in medium mixing bowl.  Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in skillet on medium heat.  Sweat onions and garlic, approximately 3 minutes.  Add kale to skillet.  Cook until kale is bright green and soft.  Add kale mixture to quinoa.  Add breadcrumbs and stir to combine ingredients.  Place clean skillet on medium heat.  Add enough oil to coat bottom of pan.  Form patties using ½ c of quinoa mixture.  Place patties in skillet being careful not to splash hot oil.  Do not overcrowd the pan.  Fry until golden brown on each side, approximately 5 minutes per side.  Remove patties, drain on paper towel, and serve.  The boys ate theirs with ketchup (of course), Joe enjoyed his plain, and I topped mine with a little babaganoush (Sabra brand is yummy and can be found at Costco.  It makes a great dip!)

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