Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Roseola is red...

and fevers are blue, this weekend was stressful and I am glad that it's through...

Happy Belated Christmas everyone! I will explain my poem here in a minute. First I would like to thank everyone for their generous and wonderful gifts for Christmas! The children received some much needed clothes (thank you so very much!) and they both love their toys. Bella loves her Nintendo DS, her Pixos and her art supplies. She also can't wait to tear into her dinosaur block and see what's inside. She loves her dinosaur books too. Kristjan is enjoying all of his toys. He loves to drag is helicopter and pelican around and he likes his little people toys. There are little cars, balls, and people all over the place! Thank you again so very much! I hope you all had a great Christmas.

What a mess! I bet most homes looked the same that morning. Bella already glued on her DS and Chris getting started on getting those toys from their Fort Knox packaging.

Bella can't make up her mind what to play with and Kristjan looks like he's pondering the same questions as well.

Playing with his little people farm. Hmm...looks like I am going to have to reluctantly break down and give him a trim before his hair covers his little eyes.

Bella helping to hand out gifts.

Nothing beats a ride on a box! Kristjan is my little mountain goat. Liked to get on top of all the boxes. Bella took advantage of a free ride. Nannu got a little workout in the deal too.

My little sprouts and I

Kristjan and the Christmas tree. I kind of felt bad taking it down. I usually keep it up until after the New Year, but he was so drawn to it that I needed to get it packed away. He was constantly at that tree tugging on it. I understand man! It's tall, pretty and sparkly. Unfortunately, not safe to be climbing, tugging and chewing on. Tree had to go!

Now, on to my silly poem. Christmas evening Kristjan developed a mild fever. In the morning he had another fever so he stayed home with daddy. Throughout the day the fever persisted and became higher each time. Seemed the fever would come back after the medicine wore off. In the middle of the night Friday he was at 104 and after giving him another sponge bath and meds I took him to the hospital. After a long night there we came home with the diagnosis of Strep Throat. They had given him a shot and instructed us to keep the fevers down with meds. All day Saturday...high fever, then finally on Sunday the fever broke and then a rash developed.

I took him to his pediatrician yesterday and she said he did not have Strep but in fact had Roseola. A virus that starts with 3-4 days of intense fever and then the fever passes and the lovely rash develops. My little spotted child is doing much better. His appetite is returning and his rash will go away on its own.

I noticed last night; when I was looking in the mirror, that I have a little herd of gray hairs on top of my head. My first gray hairs mind you! I know those buggers were not there a week ago.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Nutcracker

It was a beautiful experience. Didn't all go as planned, but it still was a wonderful time. I had paid for two more tickets for my neighbor and her daughter. Her daughter became ill at the last moment so they could not come.

So Bella and I ventured out on our own and she really looked beautiful. Her face lit up when she saw the curtain rise. She loved the theatre and all of the balconies, lights, and music. She told me she wanted to be on the stage. I told her if she worked hard and truly wanted it, it can happen. I myself loved the ballet too. For a couple of hours all my problems were far away and I could see talent and wonder before me. I think we may have started something here...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Where do I start?

First let me start with a few of the goodies that Bella and I made at school the other day. She brought back a grocery bag full of other homemade ornaments she made for the tree as well.

"No! Not my gum drop buttons!"
Osabella? She covered her "I" in a decorating moment.

I finally did it! I realize that making a batch of truffles is hardly an accomplishment that deserves any awards or recognition; but for the schedule I seem to have, we are lucky these guys got made. Bella helped me dip them all. We both had chocolate all over. She was my little messenger delivering truffles to friends in the neighborhood. I have the recipe that I used for these little pieces of heaven here.

They turned out quite yummy. I had to keep at least a few for us...

Now to devote some time to Barley Water Brewing aka Chris's home brew. Yesterday he made some American Pale Ale. He has made this before and it was so good he decided to make another batch. Above he is using the Igloo cooler as his mash tun which has the grains resting in a stabilized temperature in order to extract the sugars from them. This sets for about an hour or so, depending on the recipe. The liquid that is extracted from the mash tun is called the wort. In the picture above he is transferring the wort into his brew kettle. The kettle on the far right contained the water he boiled for the mash tun.
Here is a view of the wort as it is being transferred from the mash tun into the brew kettle. At set times during cooking he will add hops. They are generally added in two parts. The bittering hops are boiled first for about an hour and then the finishing hops are added toward the end of the boil.

Whole hops. He did have a slight problem with these verses the pellets because they caused quite a problem with his pumps and clogging. After the last of the hops are added, the brew must be chilled enough so that the yeast mixture can be added. Chris uses a couple of pumps and hoses for this. After the beer has been chilled, and strained it then goes into the carboy for fermenting.

Now for the rug rats! Getting their second bath for the day. Hate to even mention it for the people up north, but it was 78 and sunny so the kids played outside and got as dirty as they could I think. Looks like Kristjan is ready for battle against the ferocious sea monster!

Here's a kool dittie. Bella found this shark tooth in my car yesterday. It must have gotten stuck to the bottom of her shoe and ended up on the floor in my car. It's not everyday you stumble upon a prehistoric item like that! Now if we could only find a Megalodon tooth!

Saturday Bella and I went to the mall and finished up some shopping. We rode on the holiday train, waved at Santa, went up and down a few escalators and munched on some Nathan's hot dogs. We picked up her Christmas dress for the Nutcracker show. She is all excited. I am excited too - I have always wanted to see it! We are going with her friend and her mom from next door. Pictures to come!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Kindergarten fun

Boy did we have a blast and the "Make and Take" at school yesterday! I forgot my darn camera, but I will take some pictures of the goodies that we made. We should get those today because they all had to set and dry overnight.

Her classroom had 4 tables set up with each table having a different craft:
  • decorating your gingerbread man
  • making an angel with clothes pin and fabric
  • making a wreath with your traced hand and colored paper
  • making your own picture frame

We rotated every 25 minutes to the next table until we got to make one of each craft. I along with a couple other moms that attended, helped all of the kids with their crafts. I really enjoyed myself and I have to admit that I felt all warm and fuzzy being there to help the little guys. I have a new appreciation for all that Ms Carter (her teacher) has to organize and do everyday. With a room full of maniac five year olds, she had a great handle on them.

I was told Bella is her #1 helper and can always be counted on. I saw her in action too! She was picking up, helping her carry things, and organizing. Now, why can't I get her to do those things at home? I think I've been had...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Maybe milk does do a body good

I never thought I would say this but I think those adds about drinking milk and it doing a body good are at least 1/2 true because when I started Kristjan on the organic whole milk, he seems to have been in the best mood! That and the fact that he has been without a cold or ear infection and it's been so nice to see him so happy and playful.

You should know or at least take time to read (do your research, don't believe everything you hear - think outside the box!) about the myths regarding milk and calcium absorption. It is there, but our bodies do not absorb it easily from milk. I can name dozens of foods that offer more calcium per calorie than cow's milk (basil, lettuce, kale, collard greens, parsley, fortified cereal, fortified orange juice, seaweed, blackstrap molasses, to mention a few). Don't get me started on the financial connection between the mass media and food industry and the information they don't want to you to know, wanting everyone to blindly go out and buy what they tell you to.

I seem to have developed a sense of informed independence. I don't want to allow myself to believe in urban legends, whatever the news says, etc. If I allow that I know I will become a paranoid, bitter, and lifeless entity. I don't want to be afraid to live my life because of what craziness the mass media has broadcast or because of a story he-said-she-said. I don't want my kids to be afraid either. I want to be informed from all angles and get the facts, then independently take action from there. No matter what others say, think or believe. That's what I am going to teach my kids. So there, that's my piece on that!

On a more peaceful note, I made a great comfort dish last night made from cabbage, spinach and sausage along with one of my favorites - hominy. You can view the recipe here if you like.

Tomorrow I will be going to Bella's classroom in the afternoon bringing juice and cookies along with me. We will be making Christmas ornaments together. I thought it would be fun and she would like to have one of us join her. Chris has joined her at school for an activity or two and this will be my second visit. We think it's important to be there for her for activities that they want the parents included on. You can see that all she seems to want is the love and admiration from us and to be proud of her. I think that's what all kids really want...to make their parents happy. Both of mine make me so very happy everyday.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ends with a bang

Bella scored a goal on her final game on Saturday! As a matter of fact, every member of the team scored one goal each. It was their best game of the season. She was so excited to receive her trophy. We had a great time watching the game, it was a beautiful day out.

Gotta grow those bangs out so we can see both of her pretty eyes! She always takes off her hair clip.

Bella had gotten this really kool dinosaur book as a gift. With each dinosaurs history and description, you also had a puzzle to put each one together. Nannu put all the dinosaurs together for her so that she could play with them. Thought I would capture them prior to t-rex finding his next lunch date.

While the Jurassic period was being constructed, Kristjan performed some maintenance on his new ride. He really loves is new animal rescue truck and we can always hear his choo choo train going too. With all these new birthday gifts, it's hard to figure out what Santa can bring! I guess that's one of those things with December babies.

I think he was really getting his ride ready so he could hit the club circuit last night. Nothing like a little techno after a warm bottle and clean diaper change. Actually, we have a water spray bottle that I use to wet Bella's hair on mornings that it's a bit on the frizzy side. He seems to like having it spraying on him too. He likes anything that has to do with water. Looks like he got hit with some water and then a little styling to add!

I did manage to get some Christmas shopping done, but I still have more to do. If I could remove just 50% of the crazy traffic out there I might get the rest done in one trip. Unfortunately, the people responsible for road planning had there head in the clouds (a very nice way for me to put that) instead of creating ample and efficient roadways. I am sure my town is not the only one, it can't be. Mix some high maintenance babe's in giant Escalades that are always in a hurry and trying to kill you as they speed to their hair appointment and some snow birds that always go 20 miles below the speed limit that are headed home after their early bird special and I just want to pull over to the next happy hour joint so I can enjoy a couple brews until the traffic cleans itself out. Of course I can't really do that... so I sit there patiently like everyone else should. Sometimes in the back of my mind I envision that I had that extra police bumper on my car so I could just plow my way through.

I did make a few truffles yesterday from that recipe I posted a while back. I had a horrible time with them. Probably my fault, but I am going to use a different recipe anyway. I have all the toppings, containers and such I need. Just lacking in the truffle department. Once I get some made that actually look and taste like truffles, I'll get them on here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Teaching those skills early

After dinner and before I had a chance to put everything away, I busted Chris picking out little ditties from the baking dish still sitting on the stove. Looks to me like he was also showing Kristjan the technique. No wonder my leftover dish for work is missing garlic and brussel sprouts!I see that hand! I made one of Chris's favorites which is a roasted vegetable and pasta bake. I did not have the feta cheese on hand, but it still worked out okay. If you are interested in the recipe click here. By the way, Chris would be proud that I actually figured out the HTML stuff to create that link, which took me forever to do. Now I got it though.

If you visited, you will notice I am working on a blog exclusively on recipes. I have made many dishes from my head and I never write them down. Then when I am asked to please make that great dish of this and that again, I can't remember how I did it! Even recipes from books and from online I modify one way or another. So this way I have a record and also links on the side to find them easily. I don't mind sharing them. It's not like I am going to make any money off of them and I am not going to keep them a secret so that they never get used or shared. A recipe will die if it's not shared. Especially with family. Maybe I can accumulate enough of my own recipes to publish my own cookbook one day. I would say dream on, but you never know. I am still young and there are many more recipes to experiment with. I'll put more and more on there, so if you are interested in something different (and I am known for making "different" things) feel free to try them out.

I had my last class for the semester on Wednesday and Bella has her last soccer game this Saturday. I will miss seeing all the kids running around in crazy circles but am looking forward to sleeping in and having more time on the weekends for home stuff. I am thinking next year I may not have her back in soccer and try her for theatre or dance. I think theatre is her ticket but since we live in nowhereville I will be hard pressed to find anything near the house. Grandpa suggested the martial arts. That may work for her too. It teaches focus, discipline and she gets to express herself. I do have a couple of those nearby. We shall see what my research digs up.

This weekend I will be on a baking spree. I have made my mind up and it will happen damn it. Those truffles I mentioned weeks back are on on the agenda along with some cookies. Bella also wants to make some cookies for Santa and his elf helper and we must make sure to have some carrots available for all the reindeer!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Slow down

There are only two more weekends before Christmas! Holy crap batman! This must be the fastest month of the year for parents and the slowest for kids. I am sure I am in the group of people who have tons left to do and wondering when we will get it done. While I envy those that have been well prepared, well organized and just floating through this holiday season. You know, a therapist would probably tell me that I thrive on the chaos and would not function without it.
Who knows, it could very well be a true idea.

I finally found a salad dressing that I truly love and would use over and over! It's delish and not too bitter. I notice a lot of them use way too much vinegar for my liking and I can never find a dressing that I truly care for (other than making it myself). The brand is Brianna's and I am sure you have seen it at your local grocer near the organic or specialty foods section. The one I am referring to has the strawberry on the front (second from the right) which is the Blush Wine Vinaigrette. I think it would go great on chicken, pork or white fish too. We have gotten this brand of dressing for a long time but never this flavor. Chris's favorite of this brand is the one with the cut open peach on the front (far right) which is the Rich Poppy Seed. They aren't kidding when they say rich. I recommend anyone to step out of the Kraft box and try this brand to see for themselves.

I have to mention that the dressing we must have on hand at all times is Annie's Goddess Dressing. This is Chris's ultimate favorite and he covers his salad with it every time. I can place several options next to the salad bowl but he will always select his Goddess.

Bella with a natural smile.

One day he will be able to see more out that window.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It's finally up

I usually have my tree up the day after Thanksgiving. This year we were not home and to be honest, I was a bit hesitant with Kristjan on the prowl. So far we have not had a major disaster. We just pull him away when we see him near. He seems to stay in his play "zone" in the living room pretty well, but sometimes he quickly crawls over and takes a grab. I am trying to keep from having to buy a pen to surround the tree, though I think I will have to do so especially when the gifts start adding underneath.

Now that the tree is up and the house has some decorations I feel more in the spirit of the season. Now, to just get in gear. I have said it several times, I need more time! The things I would like to do and the things that get done are not at all the same. I so want to make some homemade goodies to give like the truffles, cookies, and maybe some granola. I have so much to do and I have to admit that it's quite frustrating for me even though I know it should not dominate my every thought. All the things on my plate that I have to do squeeze out the things that I want to do.

I started eating consciously yesterday. Meaning to me that I would make the extra effort to think about every morsel that I put in my mouth and try to keep the bad stuff out. I have done it before and stuck with it for a time always to fall back again to the norm. This time I shall try again and see how far I get. Last night I made stuffed poblanos with ground hormone and antibiotic free turkey with rice, herbs and pine nuts with tossed summer squash with a little curry and cumin. I put some medium salsa over the peppers when I baked them. There was just enough heat there to savor and still be able to taste those rich peppers. I think they are my favorite pepper so far. I have leftovers for work and I can't wait!

Okay; from yesterday, we have the result of using your oven for temporary storage. I put the cupcakes in a Tupperware bin and put it in the oven to clear up my counter space. That pretty white stuff on the cupcakes above is not the icing, it's the lid! I got a nice loaf of whole grain flax bread from the store that I wanted to warm and serve with some humus. I turned the oven on and continued washing dishes. Suddenly I start smelling cupcakes baking. After a couple of expletives upon realization, I quickly removed the melting glob. Lesson learned with a few laughs on the side.

Monday, December 8, 2008

It's another special day!

Love - Uncle Chris, Aunt Nessa, Bella & Kristjan

Only pictures can tell the story

I still can't believe my little man is one already. He's the sunshine of my life. Kristjan will only have the pictures from his first birthday to see how it all went. I hope to create scrapbooks or albums for them one day so they can have some to keep for themselves. He seemed to enjoy his birthday. To him it was just another day with people making funny faces at him and just soaking in all the love and attention.

This time though, a yummy treat appeared on his tray for him to eat! He took a few bites from his cup cakes and then proceeded to squish them and see what happened when they landed on the floor.
Bella showed her excitement for him. She was having the best time coordinating the events and helping open his gifts. Kristjan seemed to love the mess in the living room! All those new items to investigate and climb on!
I can't forget my pizzas! I like to make my own instead of the order out kind. At least where we live our choices are grease, grease and more grease. About as far from the original Italian pie as you can get. I made a half of one with just cheese for Bella. They were really yummy. I just get the ready made crusts and load whatever I want on them. Roasted garlic, mushrooms, kalamata olives, ham, goat cheese....yum. Super easy and fast for week nights and parties too!
I always have Chris cut the pies, he's much neater about it than I. We had Grandma, Grandpa, Nanna and Nannu there too. We enjoyed some pies, salad and cupcakes. Nannu and Grandpa tried some of Chris's homebrews. Nanna was in heaven having her little ones near and Grandma got to sing some Christmas songs with Bella. I swear I need to get her in theatre or dance.

Grandma and Grandpa came down to visit for a couple of days. Bella always gets excited when they come! We always enjoy having them. We know the next time they come down Kristjan will be on foot and on the go when they see him!

Tomorrow I shall share a photo of why you should never store anything in your oven like it's a pantry. Stay tuned.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Happy Birthday Kristjan!

My little man has turned one today! He has brought so much love into our family. He makes us complete. This is your day.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The cosmos and human society

I had my final class with new material last night. I am truly saddened. I loved this course and the teacher was so passionate and energetic on the subject. If I were 18 and I took this class I would be on my way to becoming an Astrophysicist. The final lecture last night was like a movie cliffhanger of real life. We were just getting started on the cool stuff about the universe, planets, solar system, galaxies and such and the course is over? No!!! We just touched on each subject, but I want more information! I want answers!

Some cool items (well, I think they are anyway):

-The sun is comprised of mostly hydrogen and helium with other elements. Stars are born from the dense collection of matter in space (matter after a star as blown up etc) , some if the chunks of other stars were absorbed by our sun. Like iron for example. The cool thing is. We are in fact part of nature and the universe. What do we have a little bit of within each cell of our bodies? Iron.

-The elements Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Nitrogen - all crucial to life - are found in roughly the same proportions in comets and human beings

-It takes 8 minutes for the light from our sun to hit us. So the light you see happened 8 minutes ago. If the sun blew up, it would take 8 minutes to see it happen.

Then on my way home I thought....The closest galaxy to us (M83) is 15 million light years away. It is one of the closest spiral galaxies to our galaxy. We can even see it with binoculars. Within our galaxy there are billions of stars, some with their own solar systems with planets. Then think about the billions of other galaxies and their populations. Here we sit in our man made human society of Walmarts, fast cars, fashion, high society, political nonsense, work stress etc.

There's such a bigger picture out there which makes all this crap we deal with and worry about seem so insignificant. I'm not saying humanity is small in importance, it's the reality we have created that seems so silly. So far from the earth itself. People don't look beyond their cell phone, television or billboard advertisement to see the world around them. How many people look up at night to even see the stars or notice a sunset? How many people even notice the grass at their feet as they travel from their car to work? Some people complain how cold or hot it is outside when we are only outside for a brief moment in passing. I know I have. I too find myself walking around with blinders on. Perhaps that comes with adulthood. Children seem to notice everything and soak it all in. We should all act like children!

I won't be around to find out any of the answers to my questions regarding deep space and other life. Heck, I know why they have not made contact with us yet. Think about it. If they can get to us via the speed of light or faster (folding space, wormholes) then they must be perhaps millions or more years advanced than us...so we must seem pretty primitive to them. Why bother, we would not understand.

Speaking of the insignificant. After absorbing all that cool information on life and the cosmos, I get to go back to work and shuffle paperwork all day.

I love that Bella is interested in Space and the Universe. I hope she keeps her curiosity and fascination on life and the unknown alive and to always question, research, learn, and reflect. Never to be one sided or closed minded. I think if we get her a telescope, we both will be enjoying it together! That, or fighting over it...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Backyard treasures

Some images I captured on Thanksgiving while wandering in Caroline and Neal's backyard in Tennessee. The air was fresh and cool while the sky was clear and blue. A moment that I wanted the Earth to just stop in its daily rotation for a while.