Thursday, February 24, 2011

you don't know jack...

...but Jack knows the weather.

S eats her breakfast at her little table in the living room. On most mornings, she watches Jack's Big Music Show while she scarfs her oatmeal or Cheerios or yogurt or waffles. Today was such a day. If you're in this neck of the woods, you know it's raining cats and dogs outside today. Big puddles are everywhere. It's gnarly out there, and it's safe to say that the Ouiser girls aren't planning to leave the house. Anyway, it's raining, it's pouring...and I'm in the other room. I was happily checking my Google Reader when I heard S singing from the other room, "Rain, rain, go away, come again another day..." To my knowledge, she had never heard that song before, but she picked it up just this morning on Jack. As I stuck my head around the corner to see what she was doing, she was just singing her heart out, marching in a circle. And I laughed.

Move forward about fifteen minutes. S was taking her "heart medicine," which is really a conversation heart. Don't judge me for allowing her to eat a conversation heart at 8am. It's better to have one piece of "heart medicine" at 8am than to have the whole box in the mid afternoon because Mama is sick of hearing her beg. She just realized yesterday that there are words on the conversation hearts, so as soon as she picked today's heart, she brought it to me to read.

"It says, you rock," I told her.

A genuine look of consternation crossed her little face.

"You mean it says, you climbed a rock," she replied.

Then she popped the pink heart into her mouth, secure in the knowledge that her mother is either a lunatic or slightly illiterate because the phrase you rock doesn't make any sense to a four-year-old. I suppose it sounds like caveman speak to the preschool set. Or maybe she things that I think she is an actual rock. Either way, I laughed again.

Now she's playing with paper dolls. I helped her put the dolls on their stands and explained to her about taking their clingy little clothes off of the pages they're stored upon. She came into the room a few minutes ago and plopped down next to me. Swinging her feet from the brown chair she said, "Mom, I need to potty."

"Okay, go potty."

"But after that, the princess clothes are hard to get out of the book. I am asking you to help me. I am not yelling across the house, so will you help me?"

"Of course."

And I laughed again.

I hope you're all able to sit back and laugh uproariously at the little ones in your lives today because the weather's not cooperating. Happy Thursday, peeps.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

another standby and a daily ritual.

In talking about our standby meals, I forgot one. Veggie fajitas. S devours bell peppers (hooray for Vitamin C, right?), so we've always got them on hand. We also should buy stock in onions, garlic, and tortillas because on the rare moments when we're out of any of the three I go into panic mode. Anyway, having those things on hand makes veggie fajitas an easy go-to meal. All I do is slice peppers and onions, add some minced garlic, some olive oil, and fajita seasoning (I make ours). If I've got limes or cilantro or tomatoes, I throw those into the mix. Obviously, you could add meat to this, but I think I made it clear that we never have meat in our house. Seriously, it doesn't get much easier than this meal. You can throw everything together anytime you've got the three minutes it takes and let it sit all the livelong day. Then all you have to do is saute it in a super hot pan for a few minutes when it's time to chow. Add some salsa, and viola! Delicious.

For the record, our love of fajitas can be traced directly to T the Elder Geomorphologist. He makes the best fajitas in the entire world. I don't know what he does differently than I do, but I stand by the fact that no one can make better fajitas...despite the fact that I haven't eaten them in about seven years. Now that we're naming our son after him, I wonder if it's him we adore, or his fajitas...and all the beer we drank with him. Or maybe it's his wife and kids.

So that was the other standby. Here's the daily ritual.

Every single day, as I shower, I draw a heart on the steamy shower door. Every day. Just to remind myself that I love my life and my family. Lots of times I'll also pick one word to write above the heart. Sometimes it's something that I'm in desperate need of that day, like patience or grace or to heal if I'm sick or hurt. Other times I'll write something I'm extra grateful for that day, like M or S or friends or even hot showers or hot coffee. I know it's kind of silly, but I've never been able to keep up with a journal or a running list. Somehow, though, I can always remember this. Maybe it's because when I'm under the steamy water, I am usually alone (meaning no child regaling me with a chorus of, "mommy, mommy, mommy."), and things are usually quiet, and I am relaxed from the scrumptious hot water. Whatever it is, it works, and it makes me happy to see that heart drawn on the door. Every single day.

Now I've got some embroidery to see to. And a pot of decaf to brew. Happy Thursday, peeps.

Oh, I almost forgot. S brought me lunch.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

a bump in the road.

Last week was a tough one around these parts. Some of you know what I'm talking about, and some of you don't. If you don't know, just know that it wasn't a tough week in my normal complain-prone way, it was actual yucky stuff. But we're through it, and that's a wonderful thing. We were reminded once again that we are very blessed to have amazing people in our lives...and frankly to have amazing lives, period.

In the midst of said tough week, I had a project that I needed to work on for my faux-aunt/grandma, Mimi. Mimi has an aunt who is turning 90 this weekend, and she'd asked me to make a little book for her like someone had made for her on her recent 70th. It was "90 Reasons We Love our Aunt Rachel," and the list was compiled by lots of relatives. The reasons just needed to be written out and have simple illustrations added. I think that Mimi felt guilty that I was working on the book in the midst of a crisis, but really it was good for me. It gave me something exceedingly positive to focus on. I've never met the infamous Aunt Rachel, but reading all the reasons that people love her and admire her was inspiring. I'm now chomping at the bit to tag along to her birthday party because I want to meet her.

Then yesterday, Scarlet Lily sent around a forward that was a lady's list of lessons that life had taught her...the list reiterated so many of the things from Aunt Rachel's list it was a bit uncanny.

And last night I was reading Whole Living and there were articles on happiness and simplification that reinforced a lot of the same stuff.

And these are all qualities that I strive for in my life already. I wasn't reading about reinventing the wheel. I've been reading about things that already matter to me and my family. Things like accepting people and their differences. Things like welcoming people into your life and your home. Basic kindness. Maintaining a life that isn't overwhelmed with stuff...loving what you've got and letting go of the rest.
The whole point of this seemingly disjointed post is that sometimes, even when things suck, it's good to remember the good things. Sometimes you have to sit back and focus on who you are and who you want to be and how whatever crisis you're facing will become part of you. Not letting a crisis define you. Aunt Rachel's book had the following as a reason that some anonymous family member loved her, "As a young mother she faced heartache and hardship. She looked at it as a bump in the road." Yesterday's email list put it this way, "Frame every so called disaster with these words: In five years, will this matter?" Sometimes those bumps, those disasters are big. Sometimes they really do matter. But those things are pretty few and far between. Most stuff really is just a bump in the road.

It's not the stuff or the situation that matter. At least I don't think so. I think it's how we deal with them that matters. And that means how we deal with the people in our lives. How we support and love each other. Because the one thing that has shown up in all these random lists and articles is just that: it's our relationships that matter. Our family. Our friends. Not our stuff. Not our little league soccer games. Not the spots on the sofa. None of that is important.

This actually isn't a seemingly disjointed post, it is terribly disjointed. The point is that I've been reminded recently that good friends and family that's there for you...that's important. Love and support are important. And I'm blessed to have all of that in spades. I hope you are, too.

Monday, February 14, 2011

another way that i'm looney tunes.

It's Valentine's Day, so I'll start with wishing you a very happy one. I hope you get a lot of chocolate. I hope someone you love supports a local florist because I used to work for one, and like all small local businesses, all of your business is appreciated and needed. I wish you were here to smell the chocolate cake that I'm baking for Mr. Ouiser. So, Happy Valentine's Day.

Instead of talking about romance and gushy stuff, I'm going to regale you with the story of just one other way that I'm totally nutters. And I mean that in the sweetest possible way. It's all about my grocery list. Mundane, yes. A little crazy, absolutely. I got eye rolls from three separate family members that I ran into at the store yesterday.

Here's the process, which I've hinted at before.

I sit down and try to think of a menu for the coming week. Sometimes it's easy. Sometimes I've just got a hankering for chicken and dumplings or fajitas. Sometimes Pioneer Woman has spoken to me in my sleep. But sometimes it's not as easy. Sometimes making a menu requires that I sit down for an hour with a cup of coffee and every single word ever written by Ina Garten, plus my handy dandy recipe binder (aka The World's Greatest Cookbook). However it goes, a menu is made. So the paper has the days of the week and the corresponding night's entrée written upon it.

Somewhere else on the paper, I'll usually already have written down all the basics that we need for the week: milk, juice, bread, nineteen kinds of cheese, Cheerios, creamer.

Then I have to add all the ingredients that I need to make the stuff on the menu. Lots of times I've already got half the stuff, but you know how it goes. You have to look at every recipe (if you're using a recipe), and then you have to think to yourself, "Wait, do I have enough flour to make pizza crusts this week and make bread? Is there enough butter in the house to make four batches of cupcakes?" You know what I mean. You have to prepare. Like a Boy Scout.

Once the list of everything is written out...all the staples, all the ingredients, all the random stuff like deoderant and contact solution that your husband will not tell you he needs until after you've been to the store and therefore you must anticipate...then I have to write it out again. On the other side of the paper.

I have to break down the list into categories. Produce. Dry. Dairy. Meat. Frozen. Other. For the most part, we could get by on produce and dairy...except we need bread and cereal and Eggos. And gummies.

The list works like a charm. I am like a well-oiled machine when I walk into the grocery. Until I run into my family members and they look at my list and wonder where it all went wrong. And then I start to worry that I should seek therapy.

Happy Valentine's Day indeed.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

rotten timing.

Today, I'm going to post about lovely things. I could post about heartburn that's requiring constant use of Zantac. Or round ligament pain. Or my inability to breathe. Or hip pain. Or exhaustion. Or loads of other stuff. But where's the fun in that?

Exactly. No fun at all.

Instead, I'll pontificate about the rotten timing of Spring catalogs. Because that's way more fun. I'm trudging along in my third trimester...not talking about all those rotten symptoms. I'm pretty much the size of a sumo wrestler, but I'm okay with that. There's an extra human hanging out. But I'm growing tired of the maternity wear and the cold, dreary winter. And now Spring clothing catalogs are arriving to remind me that I'm a whale and that I can't wear the lovely Spring clothing as early as I'd like. Granted, T is due on May 1st, so I'll have the latter part of Spring to wear something less wretched than my maternity clothes, but I'm not about to start buying real clothes when there is absolutely no telling what my body size or shape will be after the little bundle of joy arrives. Plus...what I really want...what I covet are dresses. And dresses just aren't practical for nursing mamas. Know what I'm saying? Ever been out somewhere in a dress with an infant and realized that in order to nurse said infant your entire outfit has to be hoisted up to your chin? It ain't pretty. So no dresses for about another year.

To limit the self-torture, I've chucked most of the catalogs straight into the recycling bin. But when Garnet Hill showed up, I made the monumental mistake of opening it. And here are some things that I am drooling over...for your Sunday enjoyment.

Ruffled-Bottom Knit DressTie-Front Voile DressTwo-Way Trench CoatModern Merino Cardigan

For the record, I understand that there's nothing really preventing me from owning the trench coat or the sweater. Oh, that sweater and all its lovely little cardigan siblings.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

another day of random observations.

So, here it is. My brain unloading. You will be fascinated. You just don't know it yet.
  • Yesterday, I picked up a copy of Real Simple. I don't know why. I couldn't stop myself. Anyway, it recommended that if you're kind of over your morning coffee, you should try warm milk with a splash of vanilla and a dash of cinnamon. I'm trying to cut back on sugar and caffeine lately since I've noticed a direct correlation between my sugar/caffeine consumption and my feeling like preggo-crap. While the cinnamon is bothering me because cinnamon just floats...the warm vanilla milk is pretty tasty. I'm certain I'll fall asleep any moment, though...and have a bit of a caffeine headache later. But, I hate to be negative. (That's funny, right?)
  • Fruit punch flavored glucose test drink is funky. Plus, not eating my toast with peanut butter and a banana yesterday morning prior to the glucose test really messed with my day. I felt bad until I went to 7pm. (Thank you, husband, for taking care of our daughter.)
  • My daughter gets frustrated too easily, and sometimes it makes me crazy. M gets frustrated easily, too. And I'm not going to act like I don't get frustrated because I don't want my pants to catch on fire (liar, liar), but I tend to think that I'm awesome and my mistakes add character to my life and my projects. S doesn't feel that way. What have I done wrong? (Please note: a dose of humility would likely make me a nicer, more likable person, but you can't teach an old dog new tricks.)
  • I really, really want some wonderful person to take my dog. I am at my wit's end. I fear that in lieu of my current passive aggressive dislike towards said animal, I am going to be downright mean soon. I am trying to do the right thing by putting myself and the precious pooch into a better situation. M's not having it.
  • I am super excited about this. Like, super excited.
  • I do not want to go to the grocery store today, but I have to. Especially if S and I are going to make cookies later, and I promised her that we would. I must be more careful about what I promise that child.
I suppose that's it. I need to reheat my milk and take a shower. Have a great Thursday, peeps. Stay warm.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

on standby

I don't think I'm alone in this one...correct me if I'm wrong. Doesn't everyone have standby meals? Something that you almost always have the ingredients for? Something you could make blindfolded in your sleep? We had one of our standby dinners last night, and as I was making it, I thought I'd share our standbys in hopes that you might share your standbys and we'd all be standby-erific. You following my logic here?

So, beyond pasta and jarred sauce, which is frankly delicious when you don't feel like cooking and sometimes when you do...especially if you doctor the sauce with whatever veggies are about to go to veggie heaven in your crisper and some herbs and a little red wine...and then you add cheese. I'm pregnant. I'm hungry.

So, like I was saying, beyond pasta, what are your go-to dinners? For us the need for go to dinners usually arises from my not remembering what I planned to make for dinner and not being able to make sense of the ingredients in my house. This scenario normally occurs when I write the week's menu on the same paper that I write the highly organized grocery list upon and chuck straight into the recycling bin upon arriving home...before I transfer said menu to the calendar on the fridge. I have a system, and when I fail at my system, there is chaos. There is a need for standby dinner.

Our two basic standby dinners, which are mercifully two of my daughter's favorite meals in existence are noodle soup and fried rice. We had noodle soup last night. It's essentially chicken noodle soup without the chicken. I have to plan for meals with meat as there is never meat in my freezer, and if there was meat in my freezer, it would be frozen and no good for when I realize it's time to cook dinner and there is no menu on my calendar. You still following me? This is how the noodle soup goes.

I peel and dice a bunch of carrots. Or I just chop up some baby carrots. Then I clean and chop up some celery. Peel and mince garlic. Peel and dice onions if there are some laying around that need to be used. Then I heat up some olive oil in a soup pot. Then I cook all those yummy veggies until my kitchen smells delicious enough. Then I add salt and pepper. I read in Alice Waters's The Art of Simple Food that one of the keys to making good soup is to make sure that the ingredients are well seasoned (at least well seasoned enough that you'd actually eat them on their own) in each step of the process. And, therefore, I add my beloved salt and pepper. Next I add chicken broth or chicken stock or water and bouillon...whatever is around. I bring it to a boil. Then I reduce it to a simmer and let that stuff simmer away until the veggies are a yummy, soup-appropriate consistency. Then I add a bag of extra wide whole wheat egg noodles. Those cook through...then I add fresh parsley if I have it...but I never add dried parsley, though there is no logical explanation for that. Maybe it's just that dried herbs aren't as pretty. That's it. Noodle Soup ala Ouiser. Rocket science, it ain't.

As for fried rice...I cook some rice. Then in a chef's pan, I heat a couple of tablespoons of veggie or canola oil over high. I add the rice and stir it up to let the oil absorb. It's not called fried rice for nothing. Then I push all the rice to one side of the pan. On the now empty portion of the pan, I saute whatever veggies I saved from their slow veggie death. Usually it's a myriad of diced bell peppers and whatever onions I need to use. You could use anything, though. Really. I think anything. Once those have cooked for a couple of minutes (to crisp tender), I mix them into the rice, and I add some soy sauce. Sometimes I add too much. Sometimes I don't add enough. I should consider measuring. Once everything is combined, I push it all to the side of the pan again, then I scramble a couple of eggs on the empty part of the pan. Mix it all together, and you're done. Dinner is served. And, peeps...there's carbs, veggies, and protein in this one. Drink a glass of milk with your dinner, and you've got all of your food groups covered. Wicked, huh?

So, those are our standbys. An added bonus is that both of those meals are also excellent for lunch the next day. Now, as I said, pasta and jarred sauce makes a pretty regular appearance around here as does the Ouiser family favorite bread/fruit/cheese combo. Or brinner. Yum. Eggs and biscuits.

I have no idea why I've rambled on about this for so long, but I'm done now.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

paying with kisses.

I'm not going to lie to you, peeps. S got spoiled for her birthday. We have to make her friend party a no-gift affair because she gets so much from our family. We bought her a Leapster because of her newfound love of "drawing" on the computer and on my phone's sketchpad. She got an enormous amount of vintage Barbie clothes from my SIL. My parents got her a Happy Birthday Barbie that actually brought her to tears, plus a new coat for her Bitty Baby doll, and a new book. Then Sunday she got a Peyton Manning jersey that caused her to literally squeal with delight, a ton of Disney Princess figurines, and a Barbie vet toy. It's so, so much stuff, but she has played non-stop since she got all of it. She has spent hours on the sofa, dressing and undressing and redressing Barbies. She and her friend A played with the toy figurines for two-and-a-half hours yesterday with no squabbles. I finally had to make them take a break to have a snack. And the vet toy? Let's just say that I've had trouble getting the laundry done today because of the constant requests to play "Barbie and Dr. Alice the veterinarian."
Here's how the Barbie game of us is Barbie, who owns the sick puppy Emily. The other is Dr. Alice the veterinarian. I'll give you the script for when S is Barbie.

Dr. Alice sits in the blue kids' chair. Barbie, holding the puppy, rings the pretend doorbell.

Dr. Alice: Come in, please.
Barbie: Hello.
Dr. Alice: Good morning, I'm Dr. Alice.
Barbie: I'm Barbie.
We shake hands.
Dr. Alice: Who is this? (pointing to puppy)
Barbie: This is my puppy, Emily. She puked last night, and I want to know what's wrong with her.
Dr. Alice: taking puppy Well, let's take a look.
Dr. Alice then uses the stethoscope to listen to the puppy, then she must look at the puppy's ears, eyes, nose, and mouth.
Dr. Alice: It looks like the puppy is a little sick. I think she'll need a shot.
Barbie: Okay, Dr. Alice. I'll pet her to keep her calm while she gets her shot.
Dr. Alice: That's a good idea.
Dr. Alice hands the puppy back to Barbie, and Barbie pets her ears.
Barbie: It's okay, Emily, it will only sting for a second.
Dr. Alice gives the puppy a shot and a pretend princess band-aid.
Dr. Alice: All done. Here's a treat and some milk for her. You should take her home and let her rest for the day.
Barbie: Thank you, Dr. Alice.
Dr. Alice: You're welcome. That will be eight dollars.
Barbie looks concerned, then she gives Dr. Alice a bunch of kisses and walks away.

There is literally almost no variation in this little script. Occasionally, the puppy has the flu. Sometimes it's the "puke bug." But every single time S plays the pet's owner, this is how it goes, and if I say something wrong like, "I don't think Emily will need a shot today," S corrects me.

So, if you have a sick puppy, it would appear you should send it to our house because we're the cheapest vet around...especially when you consider you don't actually have to pay money. You can just pay us with kisses. We're a cheap date apparently.

Hope you're all having as much fun today as we are, but please come finish my laundry if you're bored.