Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cows say moo and chickens say bawk

J and I just got back from a few days out of town visiting a friend of mine. She has a 5 month old (who weighs more than J!) and we had a great time together. One of the highlights of the trip was a trip out to a dairy farm to see cows being milked! J loved it and just kept saying "moo" over and over. He got close enough to touch the cows, but mean mom that I am, I wouldn't let him. He also loved the chickens and ran right up to them, then laughed with joy with they all scattered and he could chase them again! All we heard the entire afternoon was "moo" and "bawwwk", which is his chicken noise. There were also three tractors on the farm, which I let him climb on some - the farm was a working farm, however, and there were animal droppings everywhere and so I didn't want to let him explore too much on his own! Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures because it was so much work trying to chase after him and keep him from climbing through the fence to the cows!

My friend and I also got to go out for coffee one night, just the two of us, as her husband stayed home with the sleeping babies. While we were out, we saw this college student with a great bag, which we both were admiring. The girls at another table next too us were also admiring it, and asked her where it was from - when she said Target, we jumped in the conversation to ask if it was a recent purchase, which it was. The next morning, we got up early and ran out with the babies to Target, where they had two of the bags left! We each got one! I've been using it today and love it - it's big enough to fit J's stuff (diapers, wipes, water cup, change of clothes) and my stuff. And I love that it's not a diaper bag - I was starting to feel too "mom" and really needed a great fall bag that could double as a diaper bag/purse, and this was perfect! Here it is:

It's actually darker than this in real-life. The best part was that it was only $25!

It's good to be back home though - he didn't sleep much on the trip because we were so busy doing fun stuff, and so I'm hoping that he'll take a good nap today and I can get my grant done for work. Good news with work (my real job) - I just found out we received a grant I applied for a few months ago!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Our dog drives me crazy

Dear Dog,

I spent $15 and ran around with J for 3 hours at the Ch.ildren's Museu.m this morning so that he would come home and take a really long nap this afternoon, giving me at least 3 hours to work on this grant proposal. And then, only an hour into his nap, you had to go crazy because someone was walking down our street. And your barking woke him up. And now he won't go back to sleep.

I'm going to make Husband start taking you to work with him. You're his dog, and I don't like you so much anymore.



Thursday, August 23, 2007

On the beach

Here are some pictures from our trip to Ty.bee (Chas - it is the Ty.bee island you are thinking about):
This is Husband (2nd from left) and me (far right) with the really incredible awesome couple from England that we met our first night there. Before I go into more details, I need to digress and point out that I just, for the first time ever, posted a picture of myself and a picture of Husband. If you are looking at this and feeling excited because you realize you know us, and my once anonymous blog is no longer such, then PLEASE leave me a comment and tell me who you are. I don't care if you keep reading, I just want to know if someone who knows us is reading this. Thanks.

Back to the picture - the first night we arrived, we checked into the condo and then took a 3 hour nap! We woke up around 8 pm and walked down the beach to the bar and grill that we hung out at the whole time we were there before. This bar is really laid-back, has the most amazing Caribbean and seafood menu, and serves cheap drinks. We spent a lot of time there on our honeymoon, and specifically found a condo that was walking distance to the bar for this trip! We sat outside on the deck, and while enjoying our fried plantains, homemade salsa, fish tacos, and beer, we started talking to the group of four English folks at the table next to us. The couple in the picture, "RV" and "Engineer", are about our age and had just started a year-long RV t.our across the United States! They quit their jobs back in England, rented out their house, and headed overseas! They started in Ta.mpa, and then Savanna.h and Ty.bee were their next stops. It was so much fun to hear about everything they had planned. We were a bit jealous of their ability to just take off like that, so it was nice to live vicariously through their plans!

We invited them to come see the Savanna.h Sand G.nats minor league baseball team with us on Friday night, and the picture above is the four of us at the game. RV had never seen a baseball game in person before, so it was fun explaining everything to her. We had a few drinks with them back at their RV after the game, and saw them for dinner/beer another night we were there. They'll be coming through our town in the fall, and so we're looking forward to seeing them again.

Here's RV and I with the Savanna.h Sand G.nat:

One of the other fun parts of our trip was the dolphin tour we went on. I managed to get a few shots of the dolphins, although it was hard to do!

There were about 40 of them swimming all around our boat - it was so neat to watch how they move in sync with each other, and a few of them even did flips and tail splashes!

One of the other big highlights was all the great food we ate on the trip! Husband doesn't eat seafood, but I love it, and fortunately he'll tolerate going to seafood restaurants and eating the one non-seafood option on a menu. We pretty much ate at only two places the whole trip: this unbelievably good breakfast place (the chef was one of two that cooked for JFK JR's wedding - he did all the breakfast, brunch, and lunches). We ate there every morning (actually, more early afternoon, since we usually didn't make it out of the condo until at least 11 or 12!) and the food was amazing. My favorite was the mushroom, jack cheese, and sausage omelet with sliced tomatoes, grits, and toast- they make all their own sausage, use extremely fresh produce, and it was delicious! The grits were also so good - I was so happy to be in the South and have grits (with lots of butter) served without even asking for them! You can only find grits in Missouri if you go to Cracker Barrel.

The second place we ate at was the bar and grill I mentioned earlier - I had this dish called Escovitch, which was fried tilapia, red beans/rice, pineapple, and snap peas. I have never eaten such light, flaky tilapia - it was so good that I ordered it two nights in a row! We also ate a lot of the fried plantains and salsa. the last night we were there, I ordered a white chocolate key lime pie that was heavenly. It really made me regret not ordering dessert every other night! I can still taste the tart lime blending with the cool chocolate.

We did eat at one other restaurant, where I ordered the platter of shellfish. A bunch of crab claws and legs, shrimp, mussels, clams, and crawfish. I was a little disappointed, because I should have just ordered crab legs/claws, since everything else I can find pretty easily in Missouri. But it was still good.

So those are the highlights of the trip. Husband and I also just really enjoyed being together and not thinking about work, J, the dog, the house, the cars, the bills, etc. It was nice to just do what we wanted and be on our own schedule (although we did miss J and called home at least twice every day to talk with him and check in on him). The sleeping until 11 and going out for beer every night was great too!


Monday, August 20, 2007

Back from the beach

Husband and I just got back from 6 days at Ty.bee Beach in Georgia. We loved it - it was our second time there, so we knew all the places we wanted to go and really enjoyed ourselves. Ate some delicious food and got a nice suntan too! It was a wonderful trip, and so nice to have some time with just the two of us. We got really homesick for J though and are happy to be back home! J had a great time with my parents - they went to the pool, the Children's museum, the art museum, the library, out to McDonalds, and all kinds of other fun stuff.

I'm trying to unpack, do laundry, and keep up with three conference calls today (J's PDO program is also on a two week hiatus!), so I will blog more later, and post pictures! I got some great shots of the dolphins from a boat trip we went on. I'm also trying to catch up on my blog reading (thankfully conference calls give a good opportunity for that!) :)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Can you miss someone you never knew?

I have been meaning to blog, for weeks, about my neighbors (now former neighbors). They had a little girl last March, and the mom decided to quit her job to stay home. We ran into them out on walks a few times, and always chatted, but never got together to do anything or made an effort to get to know each other. So we weren't really good friends, and given that, it wasn't a big deal when they moved about 6 weeks ago without us knowing that they were moving. However, after they moved, I found myself missing this woman! Really odd, seeing as I never did anything with her and never really talked much to her! I realized this week though that I, without realizing it, really felt connected to her because when I was home during the day, I could look across the street and see her car outside and know she was home too with her child! Now, I'm the only person on my street that's home during the day - everyone else works - and it's kind of lonely.

And a random question - at what age would you let your newborn be around an older child (toddler age)? We have friends that recently had a new baby and want us to come see their child, but don't want us to bring J. For some reason, I feel like this is an odd request - it's not winter, he's not in daycare, he's not sick, and I'm not going to let him touch the baby or get near it or anything. I'm sure I was like this after J was born, but it seems so silly now to be so overprotective! So help me understand their perspective a little - I've forgotten already what it's like to be a new parent!

*I'm editing this to add that the baby is almost a month old, and HAS been around other kids - they have nieces and nephews that have all been around. I know family is different, but it makes it seem a little more personal that they don't want J there. The other issue is that they don't live close to us and it would require a fairly significant amount of time to go see them. And I don't really want to pay a babysitter for this.



I'm addicted to Diet Coke - that's not new. But my new obsession this summer has been fountain diet cokes from McDonalds. With J hating to go in and out of his carseat, and the time he takes to fight him to get into it, I can't just run into 7-eleven to buy a coke, so the drive-thru at McDonalds has been a lifesaver. I've gone almost every day this summer to order an extra large diet coke, light ice. It's technically the "HUGO" drink, but I just can't bring myself to call it that. What does "HUGO" mean? Does it stand for something? I don't like it when they try to come up with some "buzzword" like that, so I just call it an "extra-large".

Typically this runs me 96 cents - not too bad, but considering how often I go to get one, it's not exactly a bargain when you add it all up. This morning, however, there was a new woman at the payment window, and when I pulled up, she noticed that I had a McDonalds cup already in my console (left over from yesterday), and changed my order to charge me only 53 cents! She said this was the "refill" price. I told her that I didn't want my new drink in my old cup, because it was gross with melted coke-water, and she said that they always put the refills in new cups!

Does that make sense to you? How is that a refill?

I'm not going to argue with cheaper prices, however, so I gladly paid my 53 cents and got my drink (in a clean, new cup). The woman said that anytime you have an old cup in your car, with you, then you can get the refill price.

I'm so glad there was this new woman filling in today, and I'm a little ticked off at my usual payment window woman, because she has never told me about this, even though I have a cup in my console almost every day! I always throw away the cup from the day before at the trash can in the drive-thru, after I get my new coke.
Did you know about the refill option at McDonalds?


Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Bread Recipe

As I mentioned in the last post, J is a horrible eater. He's really picky, and has only about 10 foods that he'll eat on a regular basis. He gets really angry when you put new food on his tray and then often refuses to eat anything until you give him one of his three favorite foods - cereal bars, the Gerber animal cookies, or some of this bread. This is becoming a bit of an issue (he didn't gain any weight between his 12 and 15 month appointments) and I have been really grateful that he will actually eat these breads, because it's been a great way to get him to eat more fruits and vegetables.

My mother used to make chocolate zucchini bread for my brother when we were little and tell him it was just chocolate bread, because he refused all vegetables, and so the idea for this came from that. My mom also is a great baker, but tends to make things really healthy by taking out most of the sugar, replacing flour with whole wheat flour, and using applesauce instead of all the oil. So I followed her example and started with one of the quick bread recipes from my wonderful "Better Homes and Garden Cookbook", but modified it significantly (and doubled it) to make it more healthy. I also used a recipe from and from the Mississippi Favorite Sweet Potato Recipe pamphlet for ideas.

Here's the basic recipe I've been using, with comments for what I've been doing to modify it:

3 c. flour (I replace this with about 3/4 cup white, 1 cup whole wheat, and about 1 1/2 cups wheat germ; J likes the breads really moist and dense, and so cutting back on the flour and replacing some with wheat germ makes it like this; you can always add more flour or wheat germ later if it looks too wet)

2 c. sugar (I use only 1/2 cup - you don't miss it at all!)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3 beaten eggs

1 c. oil (sometimes I use all the oil, but I have also tried doing 1/2 c. oil and 1/2 c. applesauce - it needs some fat in the bread, so it doesn't work to replace it completely)

2-3 c. of the fruit or vegetable (*more on this below)

Flavorings - depending on which fruit or vegetable I use (*see below)

Sift dry ingredients together (including dry flavorings) in one bowl. In another bowl, combine wet ingredients(including any wet flavorings). Add the fruit or vegetable to the wet ingredients and stir to combine. Slowly add the flour to the wet ingredients, stirring as you go until it is all blended. Pour batter into greased large loaf pans, filling about 3/4 full (makes appx. 2 pans). Bake at 350 degrees for appx. 1 hour (sometimes it has taken longer than this - check by inserting a knife through the middle; if the outside is getting too dark, and the inside still is too wet, cover the top with foil to keep from browning and continue to bake, checking every 10 mins).

We eat one loaf right away (I store in the fridge) and I wrap the other in foil and a ziploc then freeze. It can be defrosted in the fridge.

*Fruit and vegetables - with all the fruits and vegetables, I usually prepare about twice as much as I need, then after preparation, I freeze half in a ziploc for use at a later time - that way I don't have to prep twice. Right now I have bananas, strawberries, sweet potato, carrot, and zucchini all in the freezer waiting to be made into bread! I also never know how much of the fruit/vegetable to use to get 2-3 cups, so this way I can just do a whole bunch, measure out what I need, then measure and freeze the rest of it.

Banana - use ripe bananas and mash them up; I usually use 2-3 cups; doesn't really need anything else for flavor

Sweet potato - Scrub clean with a brush, pat dry and prick with a fork, microwave for 16 -18 minutes (4-6 potatoes) on high (100%). Cut in half and scoop out insides. Mash them up. For flavorings, add 2 tsp vanilla, 2 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp nutmeg, and 2 tsp allspice (can also use pumpkin pie spice)

Strawberries - can use fresh or frozen. If fresh, clean, de-stem, then puree in blender or food processor (I used our hand blender). If frozen, defrost, then puree. For flavor, use about 1-2 tsp cinnamon

Zucchini - wash, finely shred with skins on (you could peel them if you don't want the skin; I used our food processor to shred); for flavorings, I used 2 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp nutmeg (could also use pumpkin pie spice)

Carrot and pineapple - wash, peel, and finely shred the carrots (again, used the food processor for this); use a whole can of crushed pineapple, with some of the juice (I pureed more with the hand blender so that it was even less chunky; I had to add a little more flour/wheat germ to compensate for the added liquid). For flavorings, I used 2 tsp cinnamon and 2 tsp vanilla.

I'm going to try pumpkin bread this fall, and I think the next bread we do will be apple (using finely shredded peeled apples). I tried blueberry banana bread, but J didn't like the blueberries and picked them out. I may try it again down the road - for that I just used frozen defrosted blueberries, sprinkled with cornstarch to keep them from sinking in the bread, and added it to the banana mixture. I may also try an apple bran bread next - I'll let you know how that turns out!

If you try making the breads, let me know. I apologize that the recipe is so "unofficial" - I really have just been putting in whatever seems right and hopes it turns out ok! Good luck!