Wednesday, March 25, 2009

baby jane

our NEW camera arrived on monday! i have not yet decided on a name for it, although everyone's favorite so far appears to be nell carter (yea, thanks carrie! ;)

so far, i *LOVE* the camera. it handles low light amazingly. i have yet to read the manual (ugh - not looking forward to that), so i'm anxious to figure out some of the features. i need to play with the mode/isos in order to find the optimum shutter speed - the auto/basic settings need your subject to be sitting rather still. oliver, it turns out, does not comply. he's a bouncy little boy, ever on the move.

i'm still rather happy with the quality - MUCH better than our old camera! you can check out all the pics i've been taking here (including a few videos of oliver being a dancing fool to the beastie boys) and here, but here's a small sample. these were all taken indoors, in the evening, sans flash.

and as long as i'm here...

sunday, march 22nd: cognac shrimp bisque, salad with homemade caesar dressing and croutons. this was very good. light and subtly complex. we added a little hot sauce to the soup at the table. i expected the bisque to be more shellfish-y, as it was made with shrimp stock, but was pleasantly surprised when it was not.

tuesday, march 24th: 16 bean soup and corndog muffins (that's right, we white trashed it up!). the soup was a crockpot recipe, and was intended for monday's dinner, but the beans weren't fully cooked by dinnertime. the recipe does not have you soaking the beans the night before, normally a prerequisite for cooking with dried beans. we figured it would be ok since they were in the crockpot all day. i think the problem, though, was that the chicken stock we added was frozen, so it probably took an hour or two to defrost, thereby giving the beans less time to cook. we finished cooking it and reheated it on the stove for dinner last night. the recipe suggests serving them with the corndog muffins, and i had some hot dogs to use up, so i figured why not? well, other than the obvious reason, of course. i made my favorite cornbread recipe, mixed in chopped hot dog, and baked as muffins. they weren't bad, and oliver certainly loved them. i did rename them white trash muffins, though, because hey - why lie?

i've become rather addicted to craigslist this week. we've used to before, both to buy and sell things. i decided i really wanted to have a bunch of outdoor toys so oliver and i can spend as much time outdoors in the nice weather as possible, and instead of buying new, that we would buy used. it made so much more sense, especially since those toys can get so expensive! now, however, i am afraid i am addicted (not that i much care, though bryan may have something else to say about it). there's just so many great deals - so far, i've gotten a ride on "bike" style toy (like a tricycle without wheels - in the pictures above) for $5, the sit and spin zebra also pictured above for $20 (which are $55 new), and one of those climbing cubes with a slide (similar to this one) for $55 (which run about $120 new). i keep combing the site for more deals every day, too. not that oliver is spoiled, or anything.

WFD: moroccan vegetable stew with couscous. includes leeks, tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, potatoes, celery, and chickpeas. bryan will also serve with chicken legs, since the man needs his meat, and i kind of cheated him on that last night. yum.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


so, i had lost our camera last weekend. adrianne and shannon were in town, and i had taken some great pictures with them. we had gone to the history museum with mom and adrianne on saturday, and had used it there, but i knew we had the camera when we were home because i took pictures of lunch. but then sunday, we couldn't find it. we had gone out to dinner with mom and adrianne that night, but hadn't brought the camera. it had simply disappeared. we had to figure it had fallen out of my purse somewhere, or oliver had "put it away" at some point. we looked EVERYWHERE (or so we thought). so, not wanting to go too long without a camera, and since we wanted to buy a nicer one at some point this year anyways, we went ahead and ordered this one from fuji. i had wanted a dslr, but bryan did not (he didn't want to mess with lenses), and even though he doesn't actually take any of our pictures, he won. apparently, however, this camera performs just like a dslr, but you cannot change the lens. i am very excited to get the new camera. i was just upset at the cute pictures we lost.


guess what i found today? yep, our camera. it was in one of the compartments of the stroller. i forgot that last saturday, after oliver's nap but before going out for dinner, we had gone on a walk. DAMN. since the new camera not only already shipped, but is in this state ready for delivery, we will just now have two cameras.


so let's get down to business.

wednesday, march 4th: thick cut pork chops, feta wheatberry salad, and whole wheat rolls with salt. mom dropped off some rolls that day, and we thought they would go perfectly with this meal (they did!). i think the feta wheatberry salad will become a favorite summer dish. it was so good, and so easy. bryan and i both love a greek salad of cucumber, red onion, roasted red pepper, parsley, and feta in a red wine vinaigrette, and the simple addition of the wheatberries made it to die for.

thursday, march 5th: pizza and beer, a classic combination. bryan's infamous pizza crust always makes me swoon. schlitz beer has made a comeback, and bryan has decided to switch his everyday beer to that brand. support the home team, and all. it's pretty good. though be sure to get the bottles, not the cans - apparently the bottles is the good, old '60s formula, while the cans is the crappy '80s formula. or something. i don't know about the details of the beer, just the part where it goes well with pizza.

friday, march 6th: pecan crusted catfish with sweet potato hash and tabasco beurre blanc, sweet peas. this had been a dish on this season's top chef, and while we weren't huge fans of the chef that made it (although he did end up winning), the dish itself sounded very attractive to me. it helps that i love hot sauce, i guess. this was fabulous. we almost didn't make the sweet potato hash; i hadn't planned on it, but bryan wanted to make it. and i'm SO glad we did, because it was amazing. of course, it was sweet potatoes fried in bacon fat, how could it not be? we didn't use tabasco brand hot sauce, and we decided not to use bryan's homemade hot sauce either, since it would have been too hot and overpowering (having been made with habaneros). it was scrumptious (and not quite as day-glo orange as it appears in the picture).

sunday, march 8th: roast chicken with pan sauce, homemade french fries, and artichokes with homemade garlic aioli. need i say more? oh, only that i made a compound butter with lemon zest, parsley, and rosemary to stuff liberally under the skin of the chicken. mom and dad joined us for dinner, and there wasn't much left over (the fries were devoured the fastest, i believe). although we are not huge fans of poultry, this meal may be the epitome, to me, of simple, easy, honest, and perfectly delicious home cooking.

monday, march 9th: chicken enchiladas. using bryan's homemade chile paste. one of the dishes that he used to woo me early in our relationship. turns out, it still works.

tuesday, march 10th: shepherd’s-style rigatoni with ricotta and irish country sausage, roasted cauliflower. a very simple dish that everyone loved. keeper!

thursday, march 12th: sweet potato and black bean burritos with brown rice and tomatillo salsa. bryan roasted the sweet potatoes, and we threw everything else together in whole wheat flax seed tortillas, topped with cilantro, and dug in. adrianne was in town and ate dinner with us. not our usual combination, but good enough to become one.

saturday, march 14th: for lunch, i made tomato soup and grilled cheese for us, mom, and adrianne. the soup recipe calls for cream cheese at the end, but since we were having grilled cheese, i skipped it completely. a very delicious lunch. it turns out oliver loves tomato soup!

and now, since we did not have our camera the following week, text only, sadly:

monday, march 16th: chinese lemon chicken with rice, snow peas, and bell pepper. bryan used a crockpot recipe as the idea, but of course used real lemon rather than lemonade concentrate. oliver loves asian food and rice, so this was a hit with him. i love lemons, so it was a hit with me as well.

tuesday, march 17th: beef stew with whole wheat molasses bread. mom, dad, and shannon came over to celebrate st. patrick's day with us. the weather turned out to be in the 70s, so not the best day for stew, but it was delicious anyways, especially with the bread. can you believe i didn't even have a beer, though?

thursday, march 18th: thai tofu butternut squash with asian vegetables and rice noodles. bryan and oliver were over the moon with this one.

friday, march 20th: mascarpone chicken with pasta, and spinach with red pepper and garlic. we again used a crockpot recipe as the inspiration, but did it on the stove and changed a few things. bryan made his homemade cream of mushroom soup to use, and i bought mascarpone instead of cream cheese. bryan seared the chicken breasts, simmered them in the soup, and added the mascarpone. simple as that. when i told oliver there was cheese (mascarpone), he got very excited for dinner, and kept saying "cheese! cheese!" until we put him in his chair and gave him some.

saturday, march 21st: bbq buffalo with cornbread. bryan had wanted me to make something with buffalo, and include my cornbread. i decided to go bbq style, and browned the meat along with onion, then added diced yellow squash, diced sweet potatoes, and green beans, and mixed in some annie's bbq sauce. topped with the cornbread batter, and baked. this took literally no time to put together, and was very good.

and what else?

oliver had a bit of a woopsie last week monday. when i picked him up from day care, they had just gotten back from their walk. we took him out of his stroller and let him walk up the driveway with everyone while rachel and i chatted. i carried him over a puddle, and when i set him down, he either tripped over his own feet or thought i was still holding on, and went forehead first into the driveway. ouch. he got a pretty nasty scratch on his forehead, but was over it pretty quickly. i was just glad it wasn't his nose or mouth.

last week thursday, adrianne showed up to spend some of her spring break with us. as i mentioned, she joined us for dinner that evening, and oliver had quite a fun time showing off for her.

last week friday, shannon came to spend her spring break here as well. i had a party after work, which i stopped into for a short time before heading over to mom and dad's house so we could all have dinner together. they grilled chicken, ribs, salmon, and asparagus. oliver very much enjoyed having multiple grilled meats at his disposal.

the next morning, we headed down to the museum with mom and adrianne. i think oliver's favorite part is the butterfly room. he recently picked up the word butterfly ("buy"), so it was pretty fun watching him run around yelling "buy! buy! buy!" although, the butterflies are a little too inured to the presence of humans, which is unfortunate around a 16 month old. we had to do a lot of very active policing of him and his fingers!

we had a blast running all around the museum all morning. i think mom and adrianne wanted to actually look at exhibits, which is hard to do with an active 16 month old in tow. still, we all had fun.

after the museum, we all headed back to our house for lunch and then a nap. after nap time, we went on that walk (whereby the camera was "lost"). the weather was so beautiful, we couldn't resist walking through the park. after a quick run through target (i swear, we can't stop moving), we headed off to margarita paradise to meet mom and adrianne for mexican food (and margaritas - though i ended up having a mojito).

this past week, shannon offered to babysit for us, so we jumped on the chance and met my cousin jamie for pizza at wells brothers. we had read about the place as being one of the top 10 pizza places in the world, and in talking to people who had gone, knew we just had to go. so we left oliver with shannon, hopped in the car, and took a 50 minute drive - for pizza. about halfway there, bryan asked where the heck we were going? haha. :) but - it was worth it. the pizza was outstanding. super thin crust, which i'm not normally a fan of, but this was soft and delicious, and the edges were caramelized. we sat at the bar, and the bartender was very friendly and knowledgeable about the history of the place (opened 1921, making pizza using the same recipe since the 1940s), AND he was able to deal with bryan's silly questions. so, although it was a long drive, we'll be sure to go back. we had a lot of fun hanging out with my cousin, eating after 5pm, and being out after dark (though we were still home around 9:30). i had a few beers to make up for missing out on st. patrick's day.

our weekend is shaping up nicely. bryan wanted to check out some garden statues, so after oliver's morning nap (necessitated by a 5:45am wake up, grr) we headed out to waukesha to check out a place i had found in the yellow pages. um, turns out they just had headstones. oops. so we grabbed some coffee/tea instead, and went to visit our friends maggie and enrique. it had been forever since we had seen them, so it was really nice getting to visit. they are dog-sitting for a friend's miniature cocka-poo, and oliver got a total kick out of seeing a tiny dog! we stopped at culver's for lunch, checked out the new menards (a local hardware store) - 2 stories, including a ridable cart escalator, similar to the one at ikea, which had oliver so excited (he kept calling it a "choo choo"). then home for a nap (for everyone). after nap time, we headed out to get bryan and oliver hair cuts. oliver usually does very well, but started to freak out a little when she sprayed water on his head (he, like his father, has a very weird fear of water in his face - although he will dunk his face in water) SO he ended up getting a sucker so he would sit still. his first taste of candy, and he was not disappointed. back home for dinner, and then a walk through the park (and finding the camera). gorgeous weather, fun, fun day.

tomorrow morning, we're meeting mom, dad, and shannon for breakfast. then, oliver and bryan will spend the day together while i get the day to myself. i plan on hitting up macy's, going to the library, and just generally hoping both my boys are alive when i get home in the evening.

check out more pictures in the march gallery.

hopefully monday i'll have a new post with pictures using the new camera!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

conflict of interest

my tongue is [figuratively] bleeding, from biting it so hard.

the website where my message board resides has many boards, and i am a casual member of a few. on multiple, there are always threads regarding "how do i decrease my grocery bill?" families of 3, 4, 5, SIX wanting a grocery bill under $200/month. how one can do that and still eat food, is simply beyond me (and i mean food, not pre-packaged food products... you know, similar to cheese product - substances which resemble food but whose molecular makeup is based very little on food - and i think it has been determined that corn doesn't count, due to it's gross bastardization resulting in a total lack of nutritional value, as well as an over prevalence).

we, as americans, value quantity over quality. we want as much as we can get for as little as we can get, and the actual value of whatever we are purchasing is secondary. and why why WHY do we have to strive so hard to spend so little on something so important? food is not a luxury, it is a necessity to survive. why is it that we (and i mean the general "we", of course) elect to cut our food budget before we cut, for example, our entertainment or eating out budget? these same people who just must spend less on groceries are quite often at the same time spending $200/month on "entertainment/recreation" and just as much on "dining out." americans spend less on food than any other industrialized country in the world.

why oh why oh why?

but i do not get involved in these conversations, as my arguments will fall on deaf ears.

i am sad more people do not take the matter of nutrition - and i mean nature and common sense nutrition, not scientists' claims - more seriously. i am sad that it simply does cost more to buy fresh, whole foods rather than a box of something made in a lab.

we now have many more resources available to us, allowing us to take an active role in what we are eating. within the last 30 years, food revolutions have been taking slow hold. slow food chapters, farmer's markets, c.s.a.'s, co-ops, all sorts of local resources are popping up. and it gives me hope that as more people learn, more people will utilize these resources.

however, i think the mainstream american diet will continue to sway with whatever latest winds are blowing, telling us this is now bad for us, that is now good for us. other countries (especially the french) will continue to laugh at us. and as more and more research comes out about the real nutritional value and long term effects of not only the products available to us but also of those nutritional diet fads, it will become more clear that only one thing, really is good for us.

food. just food, plain and simple.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


working on finding a new layout... i know exactly what i want but haven't found it yet, so please bear with me.

Monday, March 2, 2009

eating well

friday, february 20th: chili dogs. not sure what placed the idea in my head, but i wanted chili dogs. which is kind of funny to me, seeing as how i've had them all of probably once before in my life. bryan made a slightly spicy chili using the Red Gold diced tomatoes with green chiles. they added a little bit of kick, but overall weren't very hot. still, spicy enough that oliver didn't get any.

sunday, february 22nd: mom and dad joined us for dinner. i made country style pork ribs in an egg lemon sauce with mashed potatoes and celeriac. the meat recipe was from Lobel's Meat and Wine. it was very, very good, and combined two of my favorite things - pork and lemon. for dessert, i made a flourless chocolate torte, which i served with fresh blackberries. i used a new torte recipe, which didn't set quite right, so it was a little more pudding like. no one had any complaints, though - just second helpings.

tuesday, february 24th: crockpot mongolian beef with udon noodles and asian vegetables. this didn't turn out tasting quite like i thought it would, but pretty close to mongolian beef, and still very good either way. oliver really loved it as well, especially the noodles coated in the sauce. he really seems to like asian flavored dishes!

wednesday, february 25th: with bryan too sick to eat, i was able to make a meatless dish for ollie and i, so i decided to throw together a quick pasta primavera style dish. i sauteed a can of Red Gold tomatoes with onions and garlic, added some white wine, oregano, and vegetables (peas, carrots, and beans), heavy cream, and parmesan, and tossed all that with pasta. it turned out even better than i expected, and it was a huge hit with oliver as well.

saturday, february 28th: winter greens lasagne, to which i added some sweet italian sausage made at the outpost, and served just with some garlic bread. this is one of my favorite pasta dishes, and everyone else liked it as well (though oliver wouldn't eat the greens this time, whereas last time he gobbled them up just fine). for dessert, i made some butterscotch chip cookies, which i then used to make ice cream sandwiches, along with some brown sugar ice cream. oliver was not allowed to partake in dessert, being the mean mommy that i am. they were good, though i am assured the cookies were the best part. bryan and his dad, who was staying with us, continued to nibble on the leftover cookies.

sunday, march 1st: shannon had emailed a pancake recipe which she swore was absolutely delicious. it involved buttermilk, wheat germ (which she substituted flax seed for), and no sugar (just honey). mom had some extra flax seed she gave me, and i endeavored to try the recipe for sunday breakfast. the recipe also calls for whole wheat pastry flour, which i didn't think i had (but it turns out i did) so i used regular unbleached all-purpose flour. shannon didn't lie - these were very good. oliver ate 2; actually taking the last half of his second to the museum with bryan and bill, refusing to let it go, and snacking on it all while they were there. i had lunch waiting for them when they arrived home: tofu coconut curry. bryan had wanted to use up the small amount of brown rice we had left, so i made that and made up the rest. using the wok, i sauteed green onions and garlic, then the red pepper, snow peas, and tofu; added coconut milk, red curry, and lime. topped the brown rice with the curry, and a sprinkling of cilantro leaves. oliver, who normally is a huge fan of peas, wasn't too keen on the snow peas, but he loved the tofu in the coconut curry! for bill's last night in town, we decided on a lamb dinner: mustard crusted pork chops, mustard greens with walnuts and lemon, giant lima beans with onions, lemon zest, and parsley, and pita bread. bryan and bill, the resident lamb lovers, were very, very happy. for dessert, i made cottage pudding, which is a cake with warm lemon sauce. this is definitely one of my favorite desserts, and a strong childhood memory. my mom made it, and her mom before, and her mom before that... needless to say, this recipe has been in my family for some time.

monday, march 2nd: anasazi enchiladas. i already knew i liked this recipe a lot, and bryan and ollie became big fans, too. i used feta instead of ricotta, and topped with a local raw milk jack cheese instead of monterry jack and cheddar. oliver loves beans and tortillas, and i'm sure the sweet sauce didn't hurt anything. bryan liked it so much he forgave me the abuse of serving him a meatless meal.

tuesday, march 3rd: chicken gratin with onion sauce and gruyere, wild rice, and roast squash. the chicken recipe was also from the Lobel's cookbook, and i loved it. the sauce was onions, dijon, and creme fraiche, and the addition of a lovely local, aged gruyere didn't hurt anything either. oliver loved the wild rice, as he loves all things rice, but wasn't a big fan of the chicken (silly boy). i am contemplating ice cream for dessert.

WFD tomorrow: thick cut pork chops and feta wheatberry salad.

we have some delicious meals planned over the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned! also trying to find good uses for those Red Gold tomatoes.

we haven't been up to much lately. oliver has had a string of colds (hello, winter in wisconsin!) with some pretty serious coughing (though the pediatrician assures us it's just a cold). bryan was near his death bed with some flu-like symptoms recently as well. keeping busy with housework, errands, and playing with oliver, mostly.

bryan's dad, bill, flew in this past saturday for a quick weekend visit, leaving us yesterday. it was nice getting to see him, and having him see how much ollie has grown since he saw him last fall. we didn't do a ton while he was here: he accompanied us to the outpost to do our shopping saturday, and sunday, he and bryan took oliver to the museum while i had some alone time (during which, instead of lounging and reading as i had planned, i did more laundry, baked a cake, made the marinade for the lamb, vacuumed, and folded yet more laundry).

this weekend, bryan is taking me out on a date to the the watchmen. we both very much enjoy the superhero movies they have been making as of late, so we're both looking forward to seeing this. plus, i never thought going to the movies would be so darn exciting. see what having a baby does to you? mom has agreed to tend to little oliver.

and now for the cute baby pictures:

the disaster zone (monday, february 23rd)

my little musical prodigy (tuesday, february 24th)

i swear the cabinet's not empty yet, dad (tuesday, february 24th)

and some museum pics from sunday:

learning about indians with grandpa bill

and dinosaurs too

posing with dad

be sure to check out the additional pictures in the february and march galleries, especially the videos of oliver dancing to lucinda williams here and here!