Sick Days

I hate being sick.  I don’t like feeling helpless and unproductive, I don’t like taking medicine, and I especially don’t like missing out on whatever else it is that I’m supposed to be doing.

As it turns out, I also don’t like mothering a sick baby.  Vera’s had a cold for a week now.  Thankfully she hasn’t had a fever or even a bad cough; she’s just been super snotty and her one eye is constantly goopy.  (Which, by the way, I am absolutely indebted to the Nose Frida and I think it’s one of those essential items for all parents of infants.)  Actually, Vera’s attitude is pretty admirable and something I should probably try to model when I’m sick.  She’s been her regular smiley, goofy, and energetic self.  She’s even been full out giggling, which she doesn’t always do!

But…I’m still pretty bummed because we’ve had to miss out on a bunch of things that we’d normally be doing.  So far we’ve missed Refresh, a MOPS playdate, church, and a MOPS meeting.  (I did manage to sneak us into one Baby Story Time at the library….shhhh!)

It’s been really hard to make the call that Vera needs to stay home….because it means I have to stay home, too.  If I were better at relaxing, I might actually take advantage of the extra time at home to catch up on my own sleep or read a book or something.  But instead, I go, go, go, and fill up all my time.  It’s not like what I’ve been doing is useless – it’s mostly helpful and productive, but even I know that most of it can wait.

God, help my baby get better, and help me be okay with just being her mom right now and not filling up all my time with other things.

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Re-Entering the World the Blogging

I don’t want to make any promises, but I’m hoping to get back into blogging more regularly.

I’m setting a couple ground rules for myself as I re-enter this world:

1) It doesn’t matter how frequently I post (even though I like structure and rhythm and routines and could easily set some sort of arbitrary standard for how often I’m blogging.)

2) I don’t need to have a bunch of photos (even though I prefer when there’s photos in blogs.)

3) My posts can (and should be) short (even though I’m generally a long-winded person.)

So, here’s to a new beginning of intermittently sharing bits and pieces of our life now that we’re a family of three!

(And, because I can’t help myself with the photos, here’s a picture of sweet Vera taken a few days ago with my brand new phone.  So new, in fact, that I hadn’t even peeled the clear sticker off of the camera lens yet.)IMG_1458

Montana Musings

Do you know that phenomenon where you can’t stop reading license plates after having been on a road trip?

We just got back from a long weekend to Big Sky, Montana for my friend Meta’s wedding and saw cars from 40 of our 50 states along the drive!  I keep looking for those last 10 states… 🙂  Actually, though, I think finding 40 is pretty good especially in comparison to the list that’s been hanging around in my car since 2005 when I drove from Michigan to Seattle with my dad.  On that trip, we saw 43 states.  Just in case you’re wondering, we found everything except: Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

Besides keeping our eyes peeled for license plates on the trip, these are the other things that I’ll remember the trip by:

1. Coming out of the McDonald’s bathroom at our dinner stop on the first night of journey only to find Kyle standing by the soda machines looking at all of our fries on the floor.  He was stunned when I found him.  There wasn’t any space for your tray to rest while you fill up your drinks at this particular McDonalds, and in Kyle’s process of trying to balance everything, the tray flipped over, dumping everything on the floor.  Fortunately our sandwiches were protected by their boxes and the staff was really understanding and brought us new fries for free. 🙂

2. Arriving at our hotel for the first night and deciding to stretch our legs on a walk to Dairy Queen for some dessert.  Mind you, Kyle has been healing from a bad sprained ankle and I recently aggravated my plantar fasciitis, so we weren’t able to walk briskly or with any great distance so the almost 3 block walk to get there felt just about right.  After enjoying our “cool treats” and feeling satiated from the people watching, it was time to make the trek back.  We we’re about a quarter of a block away from the hotel when Kyle started checking his pockets for our hotel key card.  It was nowhere to be found.  We stopped in our tracks trying to decide what to do.  Retrace all of our steps?  Have one of go back to the hotel and probably pay a fee to get a replacement card while the other retraces our steps back to the restaurant?  Thank goodness for smart phones.  I looked up the DQ phone number, gave them a call and inquired about a lost Super 8 hotel key card.  FOUND!  We saved ourselves the extra walking by finishing the last 1/4 block to get to the car and drove back to get our key.  Phew.

3. After the first leg of our drive and the two fiascos of our journey on night 1, we were pretty anxious to get to bed.  As Kyle opened his toiletry case, he discovered the 2nd thing he forgot: a toothbrush.  Guess who had to borrow mine the whole trip? (The first was a sweatshirt or long-sleeved layer of some sort.)

4. On day two of our travels, we got off to a decent start.  In the continental breakfast, we saw a lady who filled up a cup of coffee and then promptly spilled the whole thing partially on the counter, partially on the floor, and partially on herself.  Given Kyle’s luck from the night before, we figured he’d passed that along to her.  (Poor lady.)  But, no such luck.  The last part of our drive became grueling when  we came across “Incident Ahead” signs shortly before our exit on I-90.  At first we thought the signs were a joke.  There were just some random cars pulled off on the side of the road here and there.  And then….we came around a bend to a screeching halt of bumper to bumper traffic.  At times we were literally parked on the freeway.  We watched as some cars got adventurous and drove across the median to turn around and go westbound instead.  We even did a chinese fire drill at one point so Kyle could be relieved from his position at the wheel.  In curiosity, we searched the local radio stations for some sign of traffic news and eventually heard the second half of a snipit about an accident that had happened about about 12:45 pm.  (It was 4:45ish – I think – when we were parked on the freeway.)  Which, speaking of times, was one of the other reasons our trip became grueling. We forgot about the time difference…  Montana is 1 hour ahead of us, so we lost an hour somewhere and hadn’t been planning on it.  Our goal was to get to the resort where the wedding was taking place in the late afternoon so we check-in, get settled, figure our the lay of the land and then be ready to go to the “Welcome BBQ” at 6pm.  Those plans went down the drain when we ran into traffic, and lost an hour.  And then those plans were completely abandoned when we finally got through the “incident” (which was just the police taking photos and such of the accident scene) because we ran into road construction next.  Basically, as soon as we got off the freeway, we saw signs that we should expect delays.  We ended up having to follow a “pilot car” for several miles at 35 MPH on a section of the road that should have been 65MPH or so.  Oh joy.  In the end, we made it there safe and sound.  (Just several hours after our ETA.)  And there was still plenty of food for us at the BBQ.

5. Having it be sunny and warm enough to be at the the pool at 9:30 in the morning.  Oh, and I certainly won’t forget the suburn that resulted from our 3.5 hour long poolside stint.  I can honestly say I’ve never had a neck sunburn before!

Our view from the pool. (Look carefully and you can see the reflection of the red umbrella and lounge chairs in the class that separated the pool from the mountains.)

6. Riding the chairlift up to the top of the mountain for a look around.  What a view!  (Oh – and not having reapplied sunscreen for this portion of the afternoon sure didn’t help our already formed sunburns. 🙂 )

Beauty between a rock and hard place.

SNOW!

7. Discovering all of the things that the resort floated in their water jars.  (To give you an idea, we saw (or heard about other friends seeing) sliced oranges, basil and bright red hot peppers, and sliced cucumbers with lemons.)  Big Sky Resort sure makes drinking water so alluring.

8. Dancing the night away at the reception.  I was in awe of how the DJ kept so many people on the dance floor.  (To the bride’s credit, she sure did a great job of instructing him!)

9. Have two pieces of cake!  How could I resist?  It was Funfetti Cake with Rainbow Chip frosting.  🙂

10. Spending 12.5 hours in the car on the way home and remembering how sometimes I spend an entire road trip thinking and talking.  This time I mostly just zoned out.  12.5 hours is a long time to zone out.  My brain is usually works in overdrive, so I’m sure it appreciated the break.

All in all, we had a great (and memorable trip) to kickstart the summer.  Here’s to the prospect of summery days arriving in Seattle soon! (It’s currently overcast and 54 degrees with a forecast that we’ll reach 62 degrees later in the day.  Come on summer!  You can do it!  We’re all routing for you!!)

Fruit on my waffles

I was that kid who got disappointed when my parents suggested that we have fruit for dessert.  Fortunately for me, I don’t remember that happening very often.  Our desserts were usually pies, cakes, ice cream, cookies…..  You know – the good stuff.

Similarly, to this day fruit stands no chance of making its way into the limelight of my weekend breakfasts.  I’d rather have the classic combination of butter and syrup on my waffles, pancakes, or french toast than the natural sweetness of fresh berries and a dollop of greek yogurt as all the health-conscious breakfast eaters have been raving about these days.  In fact, when my sweet tooth takes charge (which is almost always), I’ll sprinkle a heavy dusting of powdered sugar into the pools of maple syrup on my plate, and when the white powder dissolves into oblivion, I add more, and repeat as necessary throughout my entire dining experience.

When I’m on a “health kick” (or am making an effort to get some protein into my diet) I use my pancakes (or waffles, or bagel, or toast) as a means to slather on a thick layer of peanut butter.  I usually accompany the peanut butter with a few slices of banana, but the only way I can get everything to slide down easily is to douse it in syrup – or honey if it’s on something like toast.

So, needless to say, I surprised myself this afternoon when I saw a pint of strawberries in the fridge and suggested to Kyle that we have waffles for lunch…WITH strawberries on them.  I really can’t remember a time that I actually craved fruit on my waffles.  To be fair, I didn’t exactly have the “health conscious” version of berries and  greek yogurt in mind.  For one, we only had whipping cream in the fridge – not greek yogurt – to which I planned on adding a touch of sugar and almond extract, and two, I was also planning on adding a little sugar to the sliced strawberries to bring out their juices.

Here’s what I came up with:

I’m trying not to toot my own horn too much, but this was the tastiest version of waffles with strawberries and whipped cream that I’ve ever had.  I kept telling Kyle that someone should hire me at their breakfast joint so I can teach them a thing or two about adding berries and whipped cream to their breakfasts.

I’m trying to decide what made it taste so good and the best I can come up with is 1) I always think food tastes better when I have to work a little bit to get it, and 2) it felt like a really good use of ingredients we just had hanging around in our fridge and pantry.  I think there’s a lot of satisfaction in the idea of each individual ingredient (the flour, eggs, milk, strawberries, whipping cream, etc.) becoming part of a greater meal – even if it turns out to be a decadent combination of waffles with strawberries and whipped cream that resembles more of a dessert than a lunch.

Simplicity

There’s something about getting all gussied up that I’ve always loved.  Probably because it’s linked to the anticipation of a long-awaited special occasion….  Remember getting ready for prom?  Or your wedding day?  I do…

Ok - I guess sometimes I need some help with my make-up. 🙂

The thing is, it doesn’t even have to be a long-awaited event.  Sometimes I get a thrill just getting ready for church on Sunday mornings.  And when we go out on those occasional dinner dates with just the two of us,  I love to spend time doing my make-up and getting my hair just right.

But the truth is…I’ve never really been a girly-girl.  Yes, I want to look presentable and feel good about myself, but the reality is, I feel best and most comfortable wearing my comfy pants and baggy sweatshirts, and I like the concept of being able to rub my eyes without worrying about smudging my make-up.

So, as you can imagine, this past “Snow Week” was ideal.  (As it turned out, I had the ENTIRE week off of school!)  I haven’t worn make up since last Sunday when we went to the Philharmonic Orchestra, and I only had to switch out of my comfy pants when it was time to do the laundry.

I guess it only makes sense that as much as I love food and therefore love the challenge of cooking an elaborate dinner with a decadent dessert, there’s a special place in my soul for the simple things, too….like granola.

I love that granola recipes are so changeable.  If you don’t like the type of nuts or dried fruit that a recipe calls for, you can just switch it out with something that matches your taste.  It’s a fairly fool-proof process, actually.  There’s been times that I’ve forgotten ingredients and other times that I mixed the fruit in before in came out of the oven, but my granola has always turned out just fine, and there’s something satisfying about that.  We need that simplicity and assurance of success in our lives sometimes.

As I got out my make-up this morning, and put on my church clothes, I realized that I’m about to enter back into real life tomorrow.  For me, that’s a life of 5am alarms, a life of dressing professionally (or at least trying…), a life of squeezing in some errands between work and the gym and making dinner.  I guess today feels like a day to honor simplicity before returning to the chaos of my regular life.

So, I made this:

Maple Almond Granola

I haven’t actually made this recipe before, but it didn’t seem too different from the others I typically make.  And, like I said before, granola is pretty fool-proof.  🙂  Here’s to the simple days!

A Reason to Bake

Perspective is a funny thing.

I never thought I could be disappointed to hear that our district had cancelled school.  After all, snow days seem to give society a sort of common ground.  We collectively anticipate the arrival of the snow, we wrestle with the decisions of whose car is better in the snow, we watch the news to track the storm, we take pictures of rulers (or yard sticks depending on what part of the country you live in) plunged into the snow to keep a close eye on the accumulation, we bundle up to venture outside, and we drink hot cocoa to warm up when we come inside again.

Now that I’m experiencing snow days this week through the lens of a Special Education Teacher who has 2 IEPs due, I’m seeing them in a new light.  I’ve spent a good block of time on my days off figuring out how to reschedule the meetings – first for Wednesday.  Then for Thursday.  And if the weather continues doing what it’s doing, I may just have to “lock” the IEPs in the system so I can be in compliance legally, and then hold the meetings once school is back in session and do a formal revision to anything that needs to be changed once we can have a face-to-face meeting.

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Today, on Snow Day #2, I’m feeling much more resigned to the fact that I can’t do anything about the snow days.  My IEP issues will eventually get resolved.  So, I’m trying to just relax and enjoy the extra time off in this winter wonderland (and not think about the extra days of school that will be tacked on in June to make up for these days that we’re sitting around at home.)

Kyle (who’s also home today) just measured and we have 5 inches of snow on our back steps. (I’m not confident that ruler is actually touching the step here.  And – the perspective is a little weird because I took the photo from floor, but it’s close enough to 5 inches. 😉 )

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Once again – perspective is a funny thing.  5 inches in some of the other places I’ve lived would seem measly and wimpy for a snowstorm.  5 inches in Seattle is a big deal! It’s a big deal because of the hills and it’s a big deal because of the lack of equipment to handle it’s removal.  Even if we had more plows, they couldn’t get down our “1 lane” streets (with cars parked on both sides) or around the roundabouts that control suburban intersections.  It’s a city that I believe was not built to handle snow.

And so the city shuts down.  And the schools shut down.  I can’t hold my IEPs.

But, as any well-respected citizen would do, I’ve tried to make the most of it.  This morning, I baked muffins, and baking is one of the activities that grounds me no matter what else is going on in the chaos of my life.

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Muffins are one of my most favorite breakfast foods, but I’m pretty particular about them.  They need to be big, and ideally hearty, too, because breakfast really is my fuel for the day.  On a regular workday, I have about 5 hours in between breakfast and my scheduled lunchtime.  If I have something like cereal in the morning, I never feel bad about having a double (or close to triple) portion.  And when I have muffins, I’m sure to make the jumbo size so they’re big enough to tide me over until lunch.  (Or at least get me a couple of hours through until I can inhale a snack in between classes.)

Most of my go-to recipes came from a muffin cookbook that my sister has.  (The author is Francesesca DiPaolo in case you’re in need of some breakfast inspiration.)   I almost always have some of her Applesauce Bran Muffins in the freezer.  Right now, I’m eating my way through my second batch of her Cranberry Nut Muffins.  They’re the yummiest reason I look forward to fresh cranberry season.  Her muffins are great because the recipes make 12 jumbo-sized muffins.  That way, I can stick them in the freezer and pull them out individually for breakfast and just re-heat them in the microwave.  (Of course it’s not the same as having freshly baked muffins that are warm from the oven, but it’s certainly convenient.)

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This morning, I strayed from Francesca’s trusty recipes because I didn’t have quite enough ripe bananas for her Banana Bran Muffins, so I revisited a recipe that my mom makes from time to time.  I think she originally found it in their local newspaper.  (Or, more than likely, my dad – the recipe finder – discovered it and passed it along to my mom for the production part.  My parents seem to have this system worked out where my dad does most of the recipe finding and menu planning, and then my mom takes over in the kitchen.  I don’t want to give you the wrong idea, though – my dad can certainly hold his own in the kitchen!  But, after 40 years of marriage, they’ve just sort of figured out what works….  J)

The muffins are in the “easy” range of difficulty and most of the ingredients are the type that you should have on hand – especially if you consider yourself to be a baker.  The only thing that held me up when I thought about making these yesterday is that my applesauce was in the freezer, and it just didn’t want to thaw very fast.  I think it turned out better this way, though.  I thawed the applesauce overnight, and then I was able to enjoy warm muffins for breakfast today.  If that’s not a good start to a snow day, I don’t know what is!

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(Chocolate Chip) Banana Muffins

Yield: 1 dozen standard size or 6 jumbo size muffins

(Oddly enough…I’ve never actually had them with chocolate chips because my mom always used dates instead.  I’m partial to the dates, but if you can’t resist chocolate, I’m sure they’re equally delicious that way.)

¾ cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup whole wheat flour

(or 1 ½ cups Whole Wheat Pastry flour)

½ cup wheat bran

(or oat bran, which is what my mom hand wrote in, and I have always used)

½ cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

¼ cup fat-free milk (although, I’m sure you could use whatever you have on hand)

1 ⅓cups mashed ripe bananas (2 to 3 medium)

⅓ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup miniature chocolate chips

(or chopped dates, which is what I’ve always used)

⅓ cup chopped pecans (this is probably optional, although I’d highly recommend including them!)

In a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients (through salt).  Combine the eggs and milk; stir in the bananas, applesauce and vanilla.  Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.  Stir in chocolate chips or chopped dates.

Coat muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray or use paper liners; fill three-fourths full with batter.  Sprinkle with pecans.  Bake at 375° for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  (If you’re making jumbo muffins, plan on the longer end of the time window.  I needed close to 25 minutes.)  Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.

Michigan

I wanted to write a post about my trip to Michigan, but I’m not really in the mood for writing.  Good thing they say a picture is worth a thousand words, right?

One of the most exciting things about my trip was getting to meet my newest nephew, Reuben.  (Well…he was the newest at the time of my trip, anyway.)

He’s such a good baby and super social and flexible.  In other words, he’s not very good birth control.  😉

Either is this little lady, Leila, who won my heart all over again.

We got to do lots of playing and hanging out together…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We get along famously, if I do say so myself. 🙂

Hanging out with my family is always the best past of being in MI.  I miss these kinds of moments living in Seattle…

One of the main events during my trip was my parents Renewal of Vows in honor of their 40th wedding anniversary this year.  It was a special day!  You never think about being at your own parents wedding, but that’s what it felt like!

We had a beautiful, sweet, and simple ceremony at a park with a Gazebo and came home to a delicious lunch and LOTS of time to just be…

 

It was so good to spend a day with Ben and Eleanor, too, on the day of my parents renewal of vows.  Heather wasn’t able to be there either since she was so close to her due date.  (Little Evan Daniel Wing arrived just 7 days later!)  Ellie and I got in LOTS of quality time on the hammock outside, read some books, and played with toys at Grammie and Grampie’s house. What fun!

I chose the timing of my trip so I could also see friends and be at my college friend, Oven’s, wedding.

It was quite impressive to see how our group has grown!  (There’s even some kids missing in this picture!)

I think this may go down in the books as one of the best summer trips to Michigan.  If only Kyle could have come….