Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"Dank Do!"

Amelia seems to think that the saying, "thank you" cures all of her rambunctious (and sometimes evil) activity.

She doesn't really say "thank you."  She says, "dank do!"

She likes to pick up the house phone, dial an assortment of random numbers, and then speed off as soon as I see/hear her.  When I finally do catch up to her, she hands me the phone (with some random Australian on the other line going, "Allo?  Allo?  Mate?") and then says, "dank do!" like she's done me some sort of favor.

She eats bananas, grilled cheese, muffins, and all sorts of things in her high chair.  When she's done with her food, she throws the remainder on the ground.  Then, she looks at me, smiles, and says, "dank do!"

After I've fixed her hair, she likes to take out her little ponytail I've created on top of her head.  She yanks out the rubber band, hands it to me, and says, "daaaaaaaaank do!" in a little sing-song voice.

She loves coasters.  She loves to find and pick up the ceramic or tile ones, run around the room with them, and then throw them on the ground.  When I bend down to pick them up, she looks at me and, of course, says, "dank do!"

For some reason, she's equated "dank do!" with "See how cute I am, Mama? Please don't kill me."

She's a-makin' me crazy.  Being snowed in for almost a week nearly drove me to the madhouse.

But she's a cutie, my baby girl.  Just when I think I've made it to my limit, she does something exceptionally cute to redeem herself.

For example, Amelia loves to act like a celebrity in the grocery store.  The other day thought she was a supermodel and the aisles were her runway.  She rode down the aisles in her buggy, clapped, screamed, and sang, "We Did It!"  She oohed and ahhed over the banana aisle like it was the most glorious thing known to man.  The produce man looked at me oddly when Amelia started yelling, "Heeeeeeeey!  Nanas!!  NANAS!!  Ooook!  Oook!!!  NANAS!"

Yes, that's MY child.  Heh.

Daaaaaaaaaaaaank Do!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

John Mayer Got This One Right...

"You'd better know that in the end/it's better to say too much/than never to say what you need to say again..."

Beautiful lyric.  Beautiful.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ice and Loathing in Georgia

It snowed Sunday night.

It wasn't a true Snopocalypse, mind you.  But, things around here have been quite snowpocalyptic.  Seven inches came down in Georgia, a normally mild-mannered state.

Before the snow, folks went nuts.  Kroger was ransacked of bread and other essentials.  I waited for an eternity to pick up my prescription (one that I would have normally picked up in thirty seconds) at the local pharmacy.

After the snow hit, people realized a cold (hehe), harsh truth:  the panic was warranted.   Almost all of northern Georgia was completely shut down as the snow blanketed the ground and roads.  Temperatures were low enough to make any slush freeze in its terrible, tire-ridden tracks.  Georgia's seventeen snow plows never encountered such a travesty before.  Major interstates were (and are) shut down, the news went nutso with "Winter Storm 2011!" and I watched lots and lots of riveting, quality daytime television.

My little family has not left the house since Sunday.  (Going across the street to the in-laws doesn't count.  Okay, maybe it does a little.  But not really.)  The roads are still pretty wretched.

Luckily, we spent the time being somewhat productive.  I chased Amelia around the house. I cooked a little.  I chased Amelia around the upstairs.  Jeremy ate lots of Hershey's Kisses.  I did the laundry, straightened up the house (it's a never-ending process), and sorted clothes for Goodwill. I chased Amelia as she grabbed the phone and attempted to call our Asian friends in Mongolia. Jeremy made snowballs and threw his Hershey Kisses wrappers in odd places.  I watched lots of Yo Gabba Gabba - I'm pretty sure that much is not even legal in Hawaii.

Did I mention that I've been chasing Amelia around the house?

The first day that I got out in the snow with Amelia, she hated it.  She cried and cried at the snow on her hands and on her coat.  We stayed out for about 10 minutes. Amelia cried for 30 minutes after we went inside.  Despite this, the snow was a really pretty novelty that I enjoyed.  At the end of the day, the freezing rain that fell created a glossy sheen over the snow that made it such a translucent wonder.  I really enjoyed the snow on this day.

The second day Amelia and I got out in the snow, she enjoyed it a little more.  She let Jeremy and I take her on the sled.  She even said, "wheee!" a couple of times.  We stayed out for about 30 minutes.  The snow was pretty enjoyable on this day.

Today, it was just too darn cold.  With temperatures hovering in the 20s, I just didn't think it was worth it.  I heard someone say that the mail ran today, so I thought I'd give Amelia and I some fresh air. I bundled us up and walked to the mailbox to pick up the mail.  The driveway looked somewhat dry from the house, but as I was walking I noticed a few spots with black ice.  I slipped a couple of times, but I completely busted out and fell when I got to the mailbox.  Some kind of miracle (mother's intuition?) allowed me to turn on my side so that Amelia wasn't hurt.  I'm pretty sure Amelia thought it was some kind of fun, but I cried out in pain.  After a few seconds, I was able to lift both of us up from the ice.  When I looked down, it had two small dents - I barely made a mark in the ice.  My hand is scratched and my side is bruised.

This is some serious crap, this ice. And I'm over it.

I'm ready to walk to my mailbox again.  I'm ready to go buy groceries at the grocery store without incurring mass panic.  I'm ready to drive to a Starbucks - to a Chickfila - to anything.  I'm ready to go back to school (yes, I said it) so that I can get through the school year and actually enjoy my summer.

I've got a fever.  Cabin fever.  And I wish I had a prescription for it (more cowbell!).

I realize how whiny that sounds.  But summertime works out so much better for Amelia and me - we can go to the park, play, hang out with Asher, go grab lunch together, shop, etc.

January is simply a repulsive month.

And I realize it could be worse.  The power is on.  The heat works.  I have Netflix.  I'm blessed.

But for now, I just want temperatures to hover above the 40 degree mark.  I want to pick daffodils with my baby girl.  I want the warmth of spring to flood back into my cheeks and skin, where winter has left me sallow-eyed, dry, and pale.

I'm tired of freezing.  Period.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Food, Glorious Food

Guess what I did over the break?

I didn't wrap presents.  I don't do that (I coerce/bribe/beg someone to do that for me).

I didn't write pages and pages of my book ...something I should have worked on (there's more written than I've posted, but I just don't want to post it).

I didn't make lesson plans (ha!).

I cooked.  I cooked and cooked and cooked some more.  I put my trusty Le Creuset pot to good use and went on a culinary journey in my own kitchen.

It was fun, frustrating, and ...well...educational. 

The Cookie Swap

My culinary journey started off with a cookie swap held at my house the Saturday after break.  Now, I don't know about you, but I'm not exactly Donna Reed.  I'm not known for my party-throwing abilities.  But there's something about the words cookie swap that got a ton of my friends riled up and excited.  I had friends asking me, "are you going to have that cookie swap?" months before I sent invitations or even set a date.  So, with that much hype, I felt like I needed to "up the ante" a little. 

I made two soups - potato and chicken noodle (Rachael Ray has a wonderful recipe for poached chicken and couscous that I transform into soup).  I got all the fixings for little sandwiches.  I arranged a cheese plate with Gouda, Vincent (from Spain, I think), and Brie topped with brown sugar, honey, pecans, and dried cranberries.  Heaven!  I'm glad I made so much food - there wasn't much left!  The cookie swap took place after eating the "snacks," and boy - did people go to town!

There were so many cookies to choose from.  I made a malt-chocolate chip combo that Jennifer really liked.  Kim's pumpkin cookies went over very well.  I can't even begin to name all of the cookies we had.   This year's cookie swap was super-fun event filled with more refined sugar than one needs in a lifetime.  I'll be honest, I spent the next day eating all the leftover cheese as opposed to cookies.  I'm a cheese fiend!

Christmas Cooking

A few days before Christmas, I attempted Julia Child's very famous Boeuf Bourguignon.  It took a lot of beef, paper towels, wine, and effort.  I made the trip to Green's, my local grocery store, to purchase hand-cut roast and a good bottle of wine (since I wouldn't know one if it me in the head).  I sauteed, chopped, and simmered for hours. Was it worth it?  Well, you know, I don't think it was.  It was tasty, mind you - but at the end of the whole process, all I could think was, "this is a really good...roast."  I like roast as much as the next person, but it's not on my top ten list of most amazing dinners ever (that would actually go to the Rachael Ray chicken recipe above).  If I'm craving beef, I'd rather have a good steak.  It takes a lot less effort and time.

After the beouf, I threw myself into my obligatory cooking for Christmas.  Some of my creations turned out like they normally do (like Ms. Cindy's mac and cheese and the Pioneer Woman's sweet soul 'taters), some of my creations turned out to be really good (the Dulce De Leche Apple Cheesecake), and some of my creations bordered on the plain-out gross (the petite vanilla bean scones I made were a disaster - they looked like big lumps of yuck - not at all like the little pillows of heaven my friend Amy makes).  On Christmas Eve, I discovered I left my tube of sausage in the car.  I was supposed to make the Cream Cheese Sausage Thingys (actual name -where you stuff refrigerated crescent rolls with a mixture of sausage, cream cheese, and cheddar cheese) for the Christmas breakfast at the Farrs' house.

The incident left a bitter taste in my mouth.

I swore off cooking for several days after Christmas.

That didn't last long.

Culinary Excursions

A few days after Christmas, Jeremy's friend Seth came over.  Seth is in physician's assistant school in New Mexico, where they eat green chiles on their Chick-fil-a.  Seth brought me over some famous New Mexico chiles, along with a recipe book for authentic New Mexican dishes.

I was hooked.

After 24 hours of pondering, I put the green chiles into a white bean chicken chili recipe by Paula Deen.  Paula, despite what anyone might say about her, knows a southern palate well.  I've never a recipe of hers go wrong or be bad, so I decided to try this one out.  The chili turned out to be very spicy, but perfect for a cold day!  I decided that I might as well make some chicken soup while I was making chili, so I cooked both recipes at the same time and let them simmer, and then cool.  I then wrapped them in little containers (after giving a portion to Seth, of course) and popped them in the freezer.  I can't wait for that crappy school day in February when I can whip out some chicken chili and be happy!

I spent a few days reading the recipes, and then decided to invite my family over to try and attempt homemade enchiladas.  I really wanted to make homemade corn tortillas with masa and a tortilla press, but Bed, Bath, and Beyond didn't have a tortilla press.   I'm telling you, this New Mexico cookbook inspired me.

D'Anna and I worked together and made enchiladas with homemade sauce (I put the chiles to good use) and fajitas (an old Cain family standby).  Cooking with D'Anna is great.  I could say it's because we get to spend time together (true), or that she and I get to share a connection over food (true), but I'll be honest.  I really love that she cleans up after me.  She's seriously the best sous chef ever!

We thought the enchiladas turned out well.  D'Anna and I are both excited about the idea of the tortilla press!  I'll have to find one soon.

Sweet Endings

I'm obsessed with finding the perfect cup of coffee.  I've found this elixir called vanilla bean paste that Williams-Sonoma sells.  Sometimes I'll make a homemade whipped cream and include the vanilla bean paste - the concoction goes really well on top of a super strong cup of coffee.  My friend from school, Jill, taught me her way of making a mocha (pour a packet of hot cocoa into it), and I recently found this awesomeness from Ghiradelli.  I put one heaping tablespoon on top of a strong cup of coffee to make a fancy mocha with it.

This ground chocolate is!

I also discovered the beauty of malted milk powder over this Christmas break.  I put it in my chocolate chip cookies, and I also made a version of malted hot chocolate with it.  This hot chocolate recipe is more like a sipping chocolate - very potent and full of chocolatey goodness.  Don't do like I did and make more than the recipe calls for - it will overwhelm you! Trust me!   It was wonderful, but very rich.  I think I'm going to start putting a little malt in some things (like pancakes - I swear that's what IHOP puts in theirs) here and there to see what I can develop.

Back to Life - Back to Reality

Now that I'm going back to work soon, my foray into cooking will mostly cease.  I've really enjoyed my culinary journey.  I'm somewhat depressed about the fact that I'll soon be back in a lunchroom full of screaming children eating All Bran when I could be in my own kitchen (or at Turnstile), but that's life.  I guess the good news is that I can take off the holiday weight gain!

Cooking is truly an educational experience full of trial and error.  I love that feeling I get when I cook something and nail it.  Conversely, I always take away a lesson when I cook something sub par or downright disgusting.  Instant results, which naturally arise from cooking, appeal to my true ADD-ridden nature.

If you're still reading this, maybe you should get some kind of reward.  I hope, like me, you learned something from my holiday cookin' experience!

I don't know if I'll ever cook this much again - it was exhausting!

Here's hoping 2011 will be a year full of yummy food, full bellies, and happy tables!

(Note:  There are links to many of the recipes I used on this page.  If you find a recipe in bold, click on it and you should link to it.  My HTML is acting funny and I couldn't get the links to underline!)