Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mini Pizzas

Blog for Family Dinner continues ... Tonight was Mini Pizzas!!

So today was kindof rough for both of us.  I've been really tired and run down lately, and she is getting over Fifth Disease.  I did the minimum amount possible for my day, and picked her up from daycare while she was still asleep on her cot.  We watched alot of Caillou and SuperWhy when we got home, curled up on the couch under a blanket.

On the phone with my mom, she talked about what she was making for dinner.  Hey, we can expand family dinner to include Nan and Grandpa, right?  That still counts, doesn't it?  So I asked my kid if she wanted to go to Nan's and have dinner.


She didn't.  She seems to like dinner at home in our dining room almost as much as I do!  I tweeted about it, and got a reply from Blog 4 Family Dinner - apparently it is common for the kids to get on board with Family Dinner early on.  Yep, that's my girl.

Anyway, so here's what I made:  Mini English Muffin Pizzas

On a baking sheet, I put a sheet of parchment paper.  It was supposed to help clean-up, which it did for the most part.  Except the cheese that escaped off the side.

On the parchment paper, I put english muffins cut side up.  I managed to fit exactly one package of muffins on the baking sheet.  I am a rock star.

Then I turned to chopping toppings.  (Ha!)  I had a package of gourmet sliced mushrooms from Whole Foods that I chopped using my chopper.  (Pampered Chef, not Slap Chop.  I hate that guy.)  Also, a bunch of garlic.  Then some green onions. 

On the english muffins, I put some spaghetti sauce, the stuff that was left over from Monday night.  Then I put the chopped vegetables, then I put some cheese.  Shredded cheese.  Bake 350, 10 minutes or so. 


(Sorry for the sideways photos.)

If I had it to do over again, I would bake them without the cheese for about 10 minutes, then add cheese and bake until it melts.  The garlic and onions needed a few more minutes in the heat.  Also, I thought about rubbing the muffins with a garlic clove before topping, but I didn't want to take that time.  If you only want a little garlic flavor, that might be a better route rather than adding it chopped.  If you like the garlic, tho, the chopped method tasted yummy.  But beware - about an hour after eating, my dad freaked out because my kid smelled like garlic.  (He watches too much CSI - he mentioned selenium poisoning.  Freak.)

Nan declared them delicious.  Everything that we eat that my kid likes, she wants to take some to Nan.  Nan wasn't complaining, tho!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

For My Mom

Hey Mom, remember when we went to IKEA in July?  And you found a kitchen that you really loved?  And you asked me to take pictures of it with my cell phone?  So you could show my dad?  And then you haven't heard anything else about it?  Well, yell for Dad, because here's the kitchen:

I have no idea who these people are.  But they wouldn't get out of the damn way for me to take the photo.
 So here they are.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Family Dinner Night 2: Ravioli and Sauce

This isn't what I had planned to have for tonight's dinner, but the kid said "ravioli" so many times that I changed my mind!

Also: being exhausted helped lean the decision toward "simple dinner".  And simple definitely describes this dinner:

Boil some water
Open the package of ravioli
Dump into the water
Boil for about 5 minutes

Meanwhile, open a jar of sauce, dump into a pot, warm up while the pasta cooks.

An aside: I love oregano.  When I was in grad school, I made a roast for a boyfriend and smothered it in oregano.  It was awesome.  So whenever I make anything with spaghetti sauce, I love to add oregano.

My father?  Hates oregano with a passion.  He can taste the tiniest amounts of oregano in a dish.  Often he will go ahead and eat it, and with a pouty look mention that it has oregano in it.  You know, just enough to make you feel bad that he's not enjoying it.

The last time I bought spaghetti sauce I bought some "garden herb" variety.  One evening I ended up throwing together an impromptu spaghetti dinner for my kid and my parents, and my dad was forced to eat spaghetti sauce containing oregano.  So when I was shopping this weekend, I made sure to get something plain, like tomato and basil, in case my dad ended up eating with us.

So tonight when I decided to switch to the "ravioli and sauce" plan, I decided that since my dad wouldn't be eating with us, that I could spruce up the sauce a bit.  I chopped some garlic and sauteed it in olive oil, then added some sauce, and also added some oregano from the garden.

Oh, and we topped with some shredded mozzarella cheese.  Yummy.  And more good conversation with my kid. 

But I'm still tired ...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Family Dinner Month Day 1: Conchiglie with Peas

Blog For Family Dinner month (use #B4FD as the Twitter hashtag) starts today.  I've started following lots of folks who talk about family dinner, feeding families well, kid-friendly meals, etc.  So I started to see the #B4FD info in my timeline.

We are doing really well with Project Veg.  Between the cookbook my friend Jenny loaned me and the one she gave me as a Christmas gift, we had been doing pretty well.  But with starting back to my semester and trying to single handedly run a household into the ground, it's usually just easier to head down the street to my mom's for dinner.

I've been feeling a little down and overwhelmed lately.  I think it's mostly hormonal, and I have a doctor appointment scheduled. don't worry.  But I've been trying to think of little things I can do that will help me to feel better, and to better deal with the stress of ... everything I have going on.

So when I started thinking about Family Dinner Month, I realized that I really like the idea.  Honestly, I am incredibly excited about the idea of my kid and I sitting down together to dinner every night for a month at our dining room table, to a meal that I cooked for us.  Don't get me wrong, I'm very grateful for the nights my mom cooks dinner for us.  Also, my parents will probably join us for a number of our meals this month, and I'm sure we will end up at their house for a few meals also.  It just feels like this is one thing that I can do that I enjoy (I love cooking) that will help me bond with my kid, take good care of her, relax at the end of a long day, and be something that I can feel like I have some control over.

I didn't realize that last part until I was discussing it with my mom.  In the middle of explaining to her that I want to try to do meal planning and eat more dinners on our own or at least at our dining room table, I started talking about how overwhelmed and out-of-control I feel sometimes, and this is one thing that I feel like I can have (or would like to have) more control over.

So, this morning my mom took the Wee One to church to see Jesus (every time you say "church" she says "I go see Jesus") and I made a list of menus, went to Whole Foods, cleaned out the fridge, put groceries away, washed all the dishes ....  then took a nap with my kid.  (Hey, I said I was overwhelmed, leave me alone).

So here was our dinner tonight, the first night of Family Dinner Month, inspired by the kind folks at Blog For Family Dinner.

The inspiration for this meal came primarily from a recipe in The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen (the cookbook that I previously copyright violated talked about here) called Conchiglie with Green and Black-Eyed Peas, Pearl Onions, and Basil.  Only it ended up being more like Conchiglie with Green Peas, Garlic, and Oregano.  The other influence for the recipe was this recipe.

So here is how it was made.  Easy peasy (sorry, I had to).

In a big pot, boil salted water for the pasta.  When a rolling boil, add pasta.  Remember to look at the time for a ballpark on when your big pot of pasta will be done.

In another pan:
Put some olive oil in the pan.
Add some chopped garlic and stir.

Oh, yea, remember to turn on the burner!  (I told you this was how I made it!)
After it gets up to temp and you notice it has started sizzling, add 1/3 cup of butter and some frozen peas.  Stir periodically until the butter is melted and the peas look thawed.

Meanwhile, head out to the garden to clip some oregano.  Garden?  Why yes, I do have an herb garden (okay, ignore the great big weed in the middle.  Most of it is herbs, anyway.)

Chop a few leaves of the oregano and add to the peas/butter/garlic stuff.
Keep warm on lo heat until the pasta is done.

As I learned on Food Network, put the pasta in the sauce and let it finish cooking and soak up all the flavors in the sauce.

It was very yummy.  The toddler enjoyed it immensely.  Even more than the dish, I enjoyed a quiet conversation with my kid.  First she told me I was a lion and she was spaghetti.  Then she was a lion (I don't know what I had become, I was too busy enjoying her lion roar).  I found out that her favorite food is ravioli, but I think that's just her favorite food to say.  She does love her some peas, and crammed them into her mouth by the fistful. 

After finishing dinner, she wanted to visit her Nan and Grandpa so that Nan could try the dish.  We wrapped up the leftovers on a Dora plate and took it to Nan to try.  Nan scarfed the whole plate down and declared it delicious, much as we had done.

So Day 1 of Family Dinner Month was a smashing success: simple, healthy, toddler-friendly meal.  Bonding conversation with my kid.  Couldn't have a better evening at home.

Also: Aveeno Calming Baby Bath with the lavendar scent really helps get the smell of chopped garlic off your hands.  That's my hint for the day.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Third Day of Preschool

When dropping off the kid one morning, the daycare director offhandedly said "you're going to hate me but: I'm going to move your daughter to a new room".  I thought she meant like "for the day" but no, she meant ... ANOTHER TRANSITION.

Why yes, yes we did just move from Twos I to Twos II in February.  Why yes, that was after moving from Toddlers to Twos I last October BEFORE SHE WAS EVEN TWO.

Again, the director wants to keep The Clique together.  Again, she's in a bind because there is a large group of children ready to move into the Twos rooms, and she has an empty preschool classroom, so it's a workable solution.  Wee One will have (YET AGAIN) a new primary caregiver, but other than that, not much will be different.  New room, new person, same group, same ....


So they took "field trips" to the new room.  Which has a large climbing apparatus with a loft, so all the kids loved the new room and had no issues.  Remember, my kid is a freaking rock star, and I'm the one with major transition issues.

Then Shermageddon happened, and I was concerned about traffic for Monday morning.  My college had not issued any statements or information to students, so I ended up posting announcements on Blackboard/email and Twitter, and trying to plan my life so I wouldn't be the loser that showed up late to class after telling my students they better not show up late for class.  I was worried about having fall clothes clean for the cold snap that came out of nowhere, and the exams I would be giving that week, etc.

So I dropped her off at daycare, knowing she would be in her new room, but thinking that "everything else" was staying "the same".

Turns out ... that was my kid's First Day of Preschool.

I pick her up to find no care sheet filled out for her (normally I get something like this that says when she went potty, napped, ate, etc).
This was the first one she brought home with no potty accidents.  Yay!

Instead, we received a general "Today" sheet that described how now they each have a job (Wee Ones is to pass out cups at meal/snack times), how there are "stations" in the room and the friends are learning that there can only be a certain number of people at a station at one time, how the friends were learning to use the computer, and there will be Show and Tell on Friday.

Also, with our Today Sheet came ....

The Preschool Newsletter, complete with a welcome for all the friends transitioning to preschool.  Complete with a back page about tips for "students". Gah.

Wha ... what?  Um ... ah ... uh ... wha...????

On Tuesday when I picked her up and had no idea when she'd slept, how much she had eaten, only that she'd had a potty accident, I realized that "everything else will be the same" was really code for "we are transitioning your kid to preschool and not really telling you so you won't freak the fuck out about it".

The only problem with that?

Most people know when their kid is starting preschool.    They can take pictures "First Day of Preschool, look how cute!"  They can mentally prepare themselves to transition from the world of "daycare", which is all about eating, pottying, and sleeping, to the world of "school" which is all about learning to be an independent person in the world. 

Wednesday, I took my camera with me to drop-off.  So here I document my kid's Third Day of Preschool.

In the car on our way to the Third Day of Preschool

Standing by the fishtank at the Third Day of Preschool

Oh, yes, everything is JUST the same

Because she's always had a "job", right?

I guess Cup Passer Outer isn't grammatically correct

Monday, September 12, 2011, my kid started preschool.  She's not even two-and-a-half.  But of course, she's doing great.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Riverboat Taxi, Day Two

We decided to try the riverboat taxi again.  One because my kid thought it was fun, and two to continue to support it.  It costs them somewhere over $800 to run the thing, and they are only charging $1 a trip to roughly 50 people in the mornings and up to 100 people some afternoons.  As POTUS said, "it's math".

I brought my real camera this time, so no out-of-focus cell phone picture.  Nope, not this time.

Except maybe for this one ...

Less scared on this trip.

We took the earlier riverboat trip, which meant we were at the trolley stop before the trolley started running.  I had the sling with me this morning, so I could have worn her in a carrier - which would have helped the 8 block walk to her daycare.  But we had some time, so I decided that we would wait for the trolley.

Waiting at the trolley stop.

And by "waiting" I mean "running in circles singing Ring Around The Rosies"

She decided she was cold, so we dug her jacket and Babylegs out of her bag.

On the trolley.

After dropping her off, I walked the four blocks to campus to teach my classes.  I felt all smug for using public transportation that day, until I remembered that I had made an appointment with a student at my Downtown campus office - 7 blocks away.  So I walked to the DT campus, then walked to fetch her from daycare.  A healthy 15 block walk - when I'm used to 0.  So the bones of my lower body were quite glad that I had foregone the morning walk up 4th street.

Too Cool For School

Why yes, she is wearing a Dora dress, a Dora jacket, and carrying a Dora backpack.  What?

Waiting on the trolley.

In all of it, I didn't have a pic of the actual, you know, TROLLEY.


Safely back home again in Indiana.

Bye Bye Riverboat
They are only going to run the riverboat for another week.  It actually isn't that helpful for the problems that exist with traffic.  The Sherman Minton bridge doesn't usually carry Jeffersonville commuters, it carries New Albany commuters and those coming down from the Knobs and points north.  The locks separate the New Albany riverfront from the 4th Street Wharf where the riverboat docks, so the boat can't actually service the people that are affected by the bridge - at least not conveniently.

But I'm glad they gave it a try, and I'm glad we got to try it out. 

The first post on the riverboat taxi is here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I'm Sortof Related to a Famous Japanese Movie Star

who unfortunately just found out that the grandfather we share was not, in fact, a Navajo from Kentucky.
So, you know that show about famous people finding out who they are related to?

Yea, my dad was totally on one of those.

In Japan.

From the time I was born, my paternal grandmother was married to the man I considered to be my grandfather.  He was actually a step father to my dad and uncle, but he was my Grandpa.  I am the only child on that side of the family, so I was basically spoiled. 

Apparently, however, before Grandpa married Grandma, he was stationed in Japan, where he had a wife and a daughter.  The daughter had two sons, one of whom is the Famous Japanese Movie Star mentioned above (he was also in Thor, so he's a movie star here too).

So we got a call from my uncle who was contacted by the producer trying to research the story for this show.  He had tracked my uncle down because he was the executor of my grandfather's estate.  He relayed this story to my uncle in an email, and my dad joined in the email conversation.

A Japanese film crew came to my parents house to film an interview with my dad and also to film the wallet my grandfather carried.  Until the day he died, he carried with him a picture of the daughter he left behind in Japan.

In July my dad went to London, where Tadanobu is filming a movie, to film the rest of the TV show.  The producers didn't tell Tadanobu or his mother, Junko, that my dad and uncle were coming.  The producers filmed them watching the interviews with my dad, and with some of my grandfather's other family.  Then they surprised them by bringing in my dad and my uncle.

Family history and family ties are very important in the Japanese culture, and they were very very pleased to meet my dad and my uncle.  I had supplied my dad with plenty of photos of the Wee One to take, and they thought she was very cute.  Junko, my father's step sister, sent gifts home for her.

We have a copy of the show they televised in Japan.  Much of what Tadanobu and his mother say is in Japanese, so we are getting that translated.  It's interesting to have family that you never knew about.  I'm glad that they were able to find the questions about my Grandpa that they were looking for.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Over The River And ...

... up 4th Street.
So, if any of you have been following my Twitter stream for the last week, I have basically given away my super secret location of where I live. 

Friday, September 9th while getting ready to take the kid to daycare, she had a potty accident.  When pulling off the wet undies, I noticed ... blood.  Just a little.  Just a very very little.  But put together with a string of accidents at daycare (usually after naptime) and my kid having to pee alot, and I was concerned that it was a sign that something was wrong.

I called the doc's office on the way to daycare and made a late afternoon appointment.  Took the kid to school, took myself to work, taught a lab, etc.  Picked up the kid, and headed to the doctor.  To get there, we drove across the river.  What's interesting is how vividly I remember the drive across the Sherman Minton bridge that afternoon.  The sun was shining and glinting off the water, there was a barge coming down the river, the bridge afforded a beautiful view.  Just one of those ordinary moments that you remember in hindsight.

Because the hindsight is ... almost exactly two hours later they closed that bridge because it was dangerous and on the verge of collapsing.  They had found cracks in the steel in some key structural supports that THURSDAY (yes, the day BEFORE I drove over that bridge with my kid in the car).

My first reaction was to be shocked that they closed the interstate and the bridge.  My second reaction was to be mad because I felt like we could have been in danger.  (I mean, it's so bad they are limiting the number of contractors on the bridge at any one time.  And there I was, in my car ....).  My third reaction was to realize that all those people that take that bridge to get to work in the morning would add to an already congested bottleneck that occurs when all of Southern Indiana commutes to the other side of the river every morning.

It's been termed Shermageddon, because for the people that used to take that bridge, it literally is.  They sit in their cars 2 to 3 hours every morning, on three different interstate highways, to get across a bridge.  I'm lucky, because I live to the east  of the main interstate.  I drive down close to the river, and jump on the local access bridge at the last possible entry point to avoid sitting in that long line of people coming from the North and West.  They have redirected the traffic pattern on the local access bridge so that instead of two lanes in each direction, there are three lanes headed south for the morning commute.  So if I leave at a decent time, it's only added about 15-20 minutes to my normal commute.  (Until Friday 5pm, that was pretty freaking awful).

So why the hell did I take a riverboat to work today?

Well ....

I guess it's because of my kid.  And the novelty of it.  After the first two days of heavy traffic last week, one of our local riverboats decided to begin ferrying people across the river during rush hours.  For $1 each way.  I wanted to support the riverboat taxi.  And for $1 I could take my kid on a quick riverboat ride across the river.  Wouldn't that be a fun way to get to work?

So this morning, we wake up early.  It's raining, of course.  It can't be nice and sunny like it was all last week for our commuting adventure.  No, it's pouring down rain.  But I'm convinced this will be a fun thing to do.  So I put on my raincoat, and one of her jackets, and dig out the umbrella.  We are ready to go.

When we park the car, I get all of the above back out of the car, and realize:  I forgot the sling.  I have no toddler carrier.  (Mothers in the know will now groan in empathy.)  We are due to get on the boat at that exact moment, so I yell, "run!" to the little kid and we take off toward the dock.  My version of "run" is slightly different than her version of "run", so I attempt to carry her on my hip.  Over a slippery raincoat.  While carrying my bag, her bag, and our umbrella.

The lovely riverboat people waited for us.  We paid our $2 (I don't think they were going to charge me for her, but I wanted to support the riverboat.  And it's $1.  And they waited for us.) and climbed aboard.  They pulled away from the dock and my kid's eyes got as big as saucers.  And stayed that way almost the whole trip.

Just a little scared.

We stood by the window and looked at the river.  We passed underneath the bridge that we normally drive across.  It was a very quick ride, but for someone who loves riverboats (me! me! me!) it was a really cool little jaunt across the river.

The only photo I took that is actually in focus.

Once arriving on the other side, we started climbing steps to get to the trolley stop.  The public transportation system maintains trolleys as buses that provide local access to some downtown spots (like my kid's daycare) for free.  So the last leg of the journey would be the trolley.  To get to the stop: steps, and more steps.

Hey, guess what, I learned something today.  Those steps are right next to (and below) the interstate.  Which means that when a large truck drives through a large puddle, the only place for the water to go is over the side, and down onto whomever is walking up the steps.  Fantastic design, engineers!

We get to the top of the steps as the Trolley is ready to drive away.  Thankfully, I have a cute, kid, so I waved to the driver and she opened the doors and said "I can't leave a baby behind!".  The kid LOVED the trolley.  So much so that twice in the 8-block ride she said "I like a trolley!" and made everyone laugh.  We signaled our stop, and the driver asked if we were headed to the daycare, and dropped us off right at the door (saving a half-block walk).

She hit the doors telling everyone who would listen that she took a boat and a trolley to get to school.   It saved us NO time in the long run, I look and feel like a drowned rat, and was then faced with another 3-block walk to get to my office.  But it was worth it since it seemed to be such a neat experience for her.

If it's raining again tomorrow, we'll drive the bridge.  It hasn't been adding that much time and stress for us, and I can at least arrive at work looking presentable.  I think the riverboat taxt would really help if they could pick up in New Albany and not in Jeff.  The Jeff folks don't need that much help - if you can get to the dock you can get to the local access bridge and that's not where the delay is.  It just saves them some parking.  The New Albany folks are the ones who are stuck, a riverboat taxi would help them much more.  But it would be a longer distance for the boat, and I don't know what the parking and docking situation is there.

So they don't get to have the fun that we had this morning on our way to work!

Better photos of our Day Two trip can be found here.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why I Haven't Written

I got writers block.  And download-the-pictures-from-the-camera-block.  But mostly?

I-don't-want-to-brag block.

Because you see, my kid pretty much potty trained herself overnight, leaving me no time to write angsty posts, develop a plan (like I did for sleeping), show you photos of all our cute cloth training pants, tell you about the amazing invention that got her to pee on a public toilet, or rant about the books that I found to be unhelpful.

So ... what else was there to write about?  Other than "hey, my kid woke up one day and started using the potty and ... well, that's about it."

I originally started this blog to be a scrapbook of sorts.  Actually, I lie.  I started this blog to get extra entries in free cloth diaper giveaways.  Seriously, now the cat is out of the bag.  But then I decided it would be a good scrapbook, and a way to get feedback on some of my crazy thoughts.  I didn't want it to be one big giant bitch session, and that's kindof how I thought it was going.  So I took a vacation.

But I miss blogging.  Sure, I miss bitch sessions.  But I also miss sharing crazy events in our lives, too.  If only to have them someplace where my kid can be humiliated by them enjoy reading them later in her life.

Besides, I am taking a riverboat and a trolley to work tomorrow, and I know I'll have alot to say about that.

Added: I finally got the photos downloaded off the camera, so I am writing posts like a mad woman.  Also, I am breaking a cardinal rule of blogging - I am backdating posts.  So that I don't go looking for the photos of my kid at the zoo in July and can't find them - because they weren't posted until the end of September.  Unethical blogging?  Possibly. So shoot me.

So if you want to catch up on all the new posts, start with July 19th and work your way forward.