Wednesday, September 29, 2010

O WhAt a DaY!

Today Molly continued to suffer from an upset stomach.

Molly's got a stomach bug.

Molly, who is just learning to potty, certainly has gotten lots of practice today.

Last night I commented to my Man how excited Molly is to have Big Girl pants like the rest of the girls in the family as I was making a large pile of tiny little clean pairs of undies from the laundry basket.  Molly spent today making large piles of her own into the tiny little pairs of undies.

I spent this evening dodging projectile poop.

There's just no good way to tell my tale.

It was quite a day.

The end. (Oh, I hope the end is in sight.  Well there's been an end in sight for most of today and yesterday...never mind.)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Sunday in the "Slammer"

"Ma'am, there's a bit of a problem with your child," the attractive young woman informed me.
Oh maaaannnnn, I thought, and things were going so well today!

As I prepared to hear the news that was about to be delivered to me, my mind reviewed the events of our day so far...

After arriving home from Cole's football game around 11:00 pm the night before, we held fast to our plans to attend church near Cleveland, Ohio the next morning.  Our goal was to be in the van by 8:00 am and arrive in time for the 11:15 worship service.  Assembled in the driveway at 8:10, and feeling pretty good about ourselves, we delayed our departure from town with a quick stop for coffee.  A bathroom stop half way to our destination caused us to be a bit more squeezed for time, but "Jane" the GPS assured us that we would arrive at the church with about 20 minutes to spare.

Twenty minutes would just barely be enough time to find a parking space, situate the youngest two kiddos into place, and find a seat in the large sanctuary filled with hundreds and hundreds of people. Happily, there was a parking space close to the building so we parked and hit the ground running.

As we entered the huge facility, we noticed lots of children in one wing and headed in that direction to deposit Kate and Molly.  Time was ticking, so we split up, Darrin and Meg to place Kate, me to take Molly to the nursery.  We placed Cole at the corner of the hallways to act as our meeting place.  After one failed attempt to find the appropriate class for Molly, I was informed that she'd graduated into the room for "two-year-olds with last names between M and Z".  Big place, lots of people and apparently, lots of two-year-olds.

When I entered the room, I told the lady who greeted me that Molly was potty training and that I needed to put a diaper on her (Molly not the nursery lady :-) so that the workers didn't have to deal with wet clothes.  She asked me to fill out the check-in form and then told me that I could come behind the desk and change her in the bathroom.  I quickly wrote Molly's name, checked the required boxes, and added, as had many other parents on the same list under the Special Instructions, "Potty Training".  I took Molly to the bathroom, put her diaper on her, released her into the gang of 2s and slipped from the room quietly.

Back in the hallway, I met up with the rest of the gang.  Darrin told me that Kate was in good hands and off we went down yet another hallway to the sanctuary.  On the way, my mind returned to the sign in sheet and I said aloud, "You know, I don't think I wrote my name anywhere on that form, isn't it strange that they didn't have a blank for that? I checked a box that it was her first time here, but I'm sure my name isn't on that form."

"They did things different when we were checking Kate in upstairs, when I told them we were just visiting, she told me that I didn't have to fill in the extra papers.  They do things differently for visitors I guess."  And with that assurance, we found seats near the front and sat with relief in the pew.

The service was moving.  The music was led by a talented guest musician from Australia, Nathan Tasker.  The sermon was from the Old Testament about King Asa and was interesting, educational, and applicable.  Our plan following the service was to divide, pick up the little girls, and meet in the church's bookstore/coffee shop before it closed for the day.  Cole and I quickly found the nursery where I'd left Molly and hurried up to the counter to claim our gal.

"Ma'am, there's a bit of a problem with your child," said an attractive young woman. "You see, you didn't pick up the card you have to present to claim her when you dropped her off.  I saw it laying on the counter after you left."

"I wondered about that," I said as things began to get clearer.  It was at that moment that Molly spotted me and another worker began to lift her over the counter to me.

"Hang on, she can't have her yet," said the first woman to the other,  to me she said, "You'll have to go get an elder before you can take her."

"I have pictures of her in my purse, if that will work," I said thinking of the hundreds of pictures on my iPod nestled inches from my twitching fingers.

"I'm so sorry," said the worker with a flailing screaming Molly in her arms, "it's for their protection."

"I understand," I said, "where do I find an elder?"

"They are usually standing out in the Commons Area, do you know where that is?" I reminded her that I was a visitor and that I wouldn't recognize any elders even if I could locate one.  Realizing my dilemma, she called a teenaged girl over to aid me in my search.  I left Cole in the nursery with a fit-throwing Molly to ease the mental anguish that would surely ensue when she saw me leave the room without her.  The worker let Cole in to play with Molly and my teen-aged-taller-than-me side kick and I hurried from the room "going on an Elder Hunt"!

"Oh my," she said as we hurried back toward the sanctuary, "usually it's not this hard to pick up your child.  I'm so sorry."
"It's really okay, I'd rather the kids be safe." I assured her as we approached a man sporting a tag on his lapel that read "Usher".  She explained our problem and the usher said,
"You're gonna need an elder for that one.  Follow me."
"Do they look different than you?" asked my helper.
Grinning, he nodded and introduced us to a man I hoped was an elder.  The usher explained my problem to the elder who turned, introduced himself to me and then to the teenaged nursery worker whom he THOUGHT WAS MY DAUGHTER!

After we got all of the actors in the unfolding drama sorted out, we made our way en mass to the nursery. On the way I explained that we were visiting and that my husband was a pastor and that this was his last Sunday of sabbatical.  Entering Molly's new home away from home, I was relieved not to hear her crying anymore and saw her and Cole playing on the floor.  I showed the gentleman one of my pictures of Molly just as Molly herself began to yell,

"That's a pretty good identification," he said smiling and gave the nursery worker the OK.  I lifted Molly onto my hip.  Freshly "sprung", she hugged my neck tightly then let go when the man said, "Hi Molly!" She looked at him and grabbed his tie and said,
"Where's my Daddy?"

I told her we were meeting Daddy in the bookstore and to let go of the man's tie.
"Molly, tell this man 'thank you'." She remained silent as she looked him over once more and then leaned toward him and gave him a big hug around the neck. Laughing we all parted ways and I and my gang made a beeline to the bookstore and the rest of our gang.

We were nearly to the bookstore when we caught up with Darrin, Meg and Kate.  "How'd you get along picking Kate up?" I asked Darrin.
"Just fine, I handed them my card and they sent her to me.  The worker was so nice.  She told me that Kate was the most polite little girl she's ever seen."
"Oh really," I said. "You didn't tell me before that they gave you a card to pick her up. You said visitors were different."
"No," he explained, "I said they didn't make me fill out all of the papers. How did Molly get along? It looks like she's been crying..."

Friday, September 24, 2010

Apples Apples Everywhere! (Top Secret Recipe Included!)

I L.O.V.E. baking in the fall! The smell of cinnamon, nutmeg, pecans, pumpkin and apple is intoxicating.  I want to bake muffins and pumpkin bread and apple pies.  We visited an apple orchard in the Amish country that inspired the fall baker in me way beyond my normal fall frenzy.

Anyone hungry for Dinner in a Pumpkin?
(Click here.)

If WalMart would package their produce like this, maybe I wouldn't dislike grocery shopping!

As much as I love to bake with apples, I am quite a dunce when it comes to choosing which apple will best suit which recipe.  Happily, there was a chart!!

As much as I adore baking with apples, you'd think I would know which apple to use for what purpose. This is not the case.  I am an apple DUNCE!!  Happily, there was a handy chart on display! (If you are apple-illiterite like me, click here for an online apple info page.)

We chose Ginger Gold, Honey Crisp, and Jonathan varieties.

From all of these varieties of apples the Hillcrest Orchard came the best ever apple cider.  
A huge metal vat spit out ice cold samples of the cider and we made many many trips to the vat!

Here's something you won't see often, my Man, gazing longingly at a new cookbook!  
Inspiration must be contagious.

The apple butter, the pumpkin butter, the jelly...oh my!
I'm tellin' ya, WalMart should take a lesson in marketing from the Amish.

With my newly acquired apples and the knowledge thereof, I am prepared to share my very best muffin recipe.  These muffins are the ultimate.  They taste much like those fancy muffins you might find in the wonderful coffee shops, but better.  PLUS, you get the benefit of a heavenly smellin' kitchen to boot!

First...get out your prettiest cookbook that's as much fun to look at as it is to cook from.

Turn to the recipe for Apple Crisp Muffins, read all of your "Notes to Self"...
"Meg & I made these 3-13-04. Yum - taste like coffe shop muffins!" Surely 6 years ago I knew how to spell coffee correctly?
Next, peel your apples. 
You'll need 3 to 3 1/2 cups, a little extra never hurts!
Now, chop 'em up and
...put 'em in a BIG mixing bowl, but not a mix-ER bowl.  
We're not going to need the mixer! YEAAA!

In a seperate bowl, combine 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 
1 very scant teaspoon salt,

...a teaspoon of cinnamon (or more if it accidentally falls into the bowl), 
AND fresh nutmeg
 (it is at this point that I veer from the recipe on the pretty page a smidge.)
Nutmeg...a few times back and forth on the micro plane oughtta do it. You should probably breathe deeply during this step for the optimal apple muffin experience.
Whisk together and add to the bowl of chopped apples.
Next, add 1 1/2 cups of sugar. (The original recipe calls for 2 cups, but the extra half of a cup doesn't add anything but extra jiggle - to the baker!)
Grab your wooden spoon and stir well until the apple chunks are well coated.
To the mixture add 1 1/4 cup vegetable oil.  It is wise to use applesauce in place of half of the oil.  I often use 3/4 cup apple sauce and 1/2 cup oil to cut down on the fat without altering the consistency too much.  Today, however, I chose to be a purist and used all oil, especially after cutting back a bit on the sugar and all!
After adding 2 slightly beaten eggs, you may or may not choose to add 1/2 cup of chopped pecans.  Today, I chose not. 
Finally, the vanilla.
If there is a secret weapon in my kitchen, it's this vanilla from Honduras.  Pappa Charles brings it to me from the mission store in North Carolina.  It is strong and mighty.
Stir it all together. Batter will be very thick. V-E-R-Y.
Spray 'em.
Fill 'em to the top.  All the way up.

Now, bake them @ 350 for 30 minutes.  Make sure they are done.  They'll smell done about 5 minutes before you should take them from the oven.  
Turn them out on to a plate or the counter top immediately so they won't stick to the muffin tin.  
You will find the same crunchy goodness on the bottom of the muffins that you do on the top.
Here's what will be waiting for you inside. 
See those chunks of soft steamy apples surrounded by cinnamonny cakey muffin.  
Don't burn your mouth!
This recipe makes 24 muffins, so you'll want to know that they freeze very well when individually wrapped in plastic wrap and then bagged in a gallon ziptop freezer bag!
Make 'em this weekend!
Go ahead - be a hero!!

3 cups peeled, chopped apples
3 1/2 cup flour
1 very scant teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
freshly ground nutmeg to taste
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup vegetable oil
(OR 3/4 cup applesauce + 1/2 cup oil)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Daddy's Home!

Since her Daddy has been on sabbatical, Kate has assumed the roll of his "little Buddy." Most of the time, when my Man leaves the house, my Kate is riding shot gun.  It doesn't matter if the destination is McDonald's for sweet tea, the coffee shop to get Mommy some coffee, the book store or the gas station, Kate is always eager to ride along with her Daddy.  When Daddy left for a few days to go to Washington D.C. Kate was lost without him.  It was pitiful.

Kate was so pitiful that her brother, who usually plays the role of "Chief Agitator" in her life, showed a bit of compassion.  Cole is an "Xer", a record keeper, an organizer of thoughts and facts and figures.  Each night before going to bed, he marks the day that has just expired on his NY Giants football calendar with a blue "X".  Rarely is anything else recorded on that calendar. After hearing Kate ask hourly, "How many days until Daddy gets home?", he took matters into his own hands.
"Come here," he told her at bedtime, and then showed her how to "X-off" each day until Daddy returned.  Each night, Cole let Kate put her "X" on his calendar.  

Finally, FINALLY the day arrived and Daddy walked through the door...

...and was attacked by women before he could get both shoes off.
She met him in the basement...

...and continued the celebration upstairs.

(Welcome Home sign by Megan)

Later that evening, Cole and I went to football practice (they are considering me for place kicker!) and when we returned, the girls were still basking in "Daddyness" (and he in "little girl-land").

They were making Chicken "Palatta" Kate reported.

They cooked with Daddy until bedtime and he tucked them in for the first time in 32 5 days, and all was right in the world. Until Molly woke up four times throughout the night to make sure Daddy was still at home. Never one to take things for granted, she also awoke verrrrry early the next morning and arrived in our bedroom to make sure Daddy hadn't gone anywhere.  She soon discovered that she wasn't the only one who wanted to make sure Daddy had stayed put...

...Kate had been with us since 2:30 am!

"Daddy, I'm not ever letting you leave again!" Kate announced. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Daddy's Gone Dinner

When Daddy's away, our taste buds can play! I was at the library recently paying another overdue book fine when I found a cookbook that had been recommended on another blog...

I checked it out, brought it home and hid it on the shelves as per my "new cookbook" protocol made necessary by my Man's aversion to new food.  When I had a chance to look through this very simple and "chatty" cookbook which claims to help the reader "eat in style on a bare bones budget," I found many recipes worth trying.  Unfortunately, before I got a chance to try any of the new dishes, the Poor Girl Gourmet was over due.  Being a reliable library patron, I returned the book, paid the fine, and begged to check it out again.  Someone else on the library food-chain had already reserved it, so I made a copy of the recipe I most wanted to try, and returned home with two black and white copies in my hand.  

Already, I'd put more work into this meal than the actual recipe entailed.  I think I'd paid more library fines than the cost of the ingredients too!  The only other thing I needed, was an unbiased panel of eaters to test the new meal.  This detail worked itself out as my Man left town for a few days.  On the first night of his absence, we dined on salad and Chocolate Chip Cookie Sweet Rolls.  A well balanced meal if ever there was one!

The next night we dined on Roasted Chicken with Olives, the very simple, sophisticated-tasting recipe below:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
You will need...

Kosher salt, black pepper, olive oil, Calamata olives, and thyme and ...

...chicken thighs.  
Simply coat with olive oil, and sprinkle with kosher salt, black pepper and thyme 
on both sides of each thigh.

Then tuck a few bunches of these loverly olives in the empty spaces in the foil-lined casserole dish (which made clean-up a snap) and place in the oven for 50-60 minutes (until juices run clear) until your home smells so wonderful you just can't stand it for another minute!

Fresh from the oven...

The Calamata olives were a new ingredient to us and we found them a bit sour until they were baked in the chicken juices!  Then they became a perfect compliment to the chicken and to the polenta that we served alongside.  To round out our Daddy's gone theme, we steamed a vegetable mix of broccoli, carrots and cauliflower, most of which are on his "Scrunch-up-the-nose-just-thinking-about-'em" list! 

Note: Cole thought it might be a good idea next time to stuff the olives under the skin of the chicken so that more of the olive flavor would get into the chicken.  We all agreed that we liked this very easy recipe. The awarding of the "DO OVER" label will have to wait until Daddy returns.  In the meantime, I'm requesting the cookbook again from the library so that we can test some more easy, inexpensive meals!

4 chicken legs &/or thighs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper
1/4 pound good-quality olives, such as Calamata or 
Castelvetrano, unpitted (ours were pitted)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Travel Tally

We're home again.  The children are all collected and tucked into their own beds all under one roof.  I thought it would be prudent to review some highlights of our getaway for posterity.

Meal at the best restaurant E-V-E-R: $32.00

Peaceful place for our retreat: $??.?? 
(I have no idea! My man took care of this one.)

Excellent meal #2! $28.00

Cozy cup of coffee before church: $2.00

Raspberry and Sweet Cream Frozen custard in waffle cones for two: $4.80

A peek into another culture: FREE

Scrumptious meal #3! $30.00
Pie anyone??

A plump pumpkin for the kids: $4.95

Our "Farewell Meal" $32.00

Apples for pie: $5.00

My mother potty-training Molly while we were away...


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