All shades of Purple

Because purple is my favorite color.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Stating the obvious

Potty training is progressing here in Purpleville. It has been easier than anticipated. Another surprise is how much more infuriating accidents are on this end of it than they were at first. I guess I expected them at first, since it was a new skill being learned. But now that I feel the Eager Helper understands it and now that I know how capable she is it fills me with inexpressible rage when she fails. My mother says we'll just have days like that. By days, I am beginning to dread that she means we can have a day with no success right after going days without an accident. I had naively hoped that a bad day would be more like one, maybe two, accidents every three or four days. Was I the only one who didn't know about this phenomenon? Who knew that things getting better could make life harder! Maybe those are the blogs or "toddler updates" I've missed. Sorry for boring you, my vast readership!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Ask Purple

Reader number 2 recently emailed this question: "How DO you manage so much home-made food every day?"
Good question, reader number 2! Maybe I should give you reader number 1's email address and he can
disabuse you of these misconceptions answer this question from a less biased perspective than mine.
There are a couple of ways that I manage it, actually. Are you ready?
1. It looks like more than it is. I make up names for things that are more thrown together than they might seem. For example: chicken pasta salad is usually chopped up leftover chicken, thrown together with diced cheese and pasta that has been cooked with some vegetable or other. Splash on your favorite salad dressing!
2.
I try to cook in such a way that there are always leftovers. The trick is that sometimes "leftovers" look the same the next time they are served and sometimes they are completely re-incarnated as in the chicken pasta salad example above. Re-incarnation is a beautiful thing.
3. I love to cook. Not because I am some special domestic person looking down her nose - it is just the way I'm made. I can't help it that I have a passion for something practical. I am in awe of people who are athletic, who love to run, hike, play frisbee or exercise, people who are good at it. They don't do it effortlessly, but their love/enjoyment of it makes it less of "I'm going to work out this morning" and more something they take for granted. Each of us is good at something (I am not saying that I am the best cook, - mercy no! - just that I enjoy it.), right?
4. I've had a lot more practice than most my age. To begin with, my mother was one of the few in her generation that did not fall for the new "mix" fad or the myth that being in the kitchen was somehow less worth her time than a career. She approached cooking as a way to minister to others; to nourish, encourage and delight them. She recognized it as an art form in which she could express herself and thrill in the variety of God's creation. My mother passed that vision along to me with all the lessons and opportunity to practice. Because of various circumstances in our family life, I began making one or more meal every week at the age of 11. I was given quite a bit of latitude and took on more responsibility as I gained skill and confidence.

And that, Reader #2, I hope answers your question without too much excess.

In the Oven and on the Table

Monday: Baked a loaf of bread. Dinner was Indian Lentils and Brown Rice.
Tuesday: Dinner was Balsamic Beef and Apple Salad.
Wednesday: Dinner was a fun experiment! I wrapped some bread dough from the freezer around some leftover
chopped roast combined with bbq sauce and shredded cheese.
Thursday: Sweet and Sour broccoli and Beef over Brown Rice for dinner.
Friday: The Eager Helper and I baked a Mocha Fudge Pudding Cake in the morning. While the Eager Helper napped, I made Chocolate Swirl Sour Cream Coffee Cake. To die for! Dinner was made up of various leftovers, suitably small in quantity so that we could stuff ourselves with Cake!
Saturday: Pizza for dinner!
Sunday: Leftover Pizza for dinner.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Shoes

Women are supposed to be better at multi-tasking than men. Mothers, even more so, I always thought of my own. And yet there are daily mistakes in my life that seem to prove otherwise. Do you think my husband will understand how I omitted an ingredient in a favorite recipe because of the Eager Helper’s . . . uh, “help?” Will the loan officer we are working with assume I am a dingy blond because I initially forgot to mention 1) The certificate of deposit that constitutes most of our down payment, 2) A moderate sized loan, 3) A small loan? My husband was mildly irritated – for him. He wants to understand but until you’ve tried to fill out a loan application to the tune of a toddler’s “If you’re bored and you know it, whine a lot!” I don’t think you have a full grasp of the challenge.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Guest Blogger

We had a funny parenting experience last week that I just couldn't coherently write about. Maybe because it didn't directly involve me. My husband is often a better writer than myself and this is how he described it:

"We had entered [an antique] mall and were looking around. By me, I mean my wife and parents. My duty, on which I focused most attentively, was to keep the little jelly bean from destroying anything. And I was doing a good job, really. . . until I found some stamps. These kept me focused just long enough that when I heard a rustle, I had images of broken crystal dancing in my head. (Who is stupid enough to put stamps next to crystal? Don'’t they know how dangerous that is?) Turning around to prevent our daughter from doing more damage, I saw she hadn't destroyed anything, but rather, had turned herself around in her stroller, and grabbed a Dr. Pepper can from the steering consul. She was muttering to herself "“Oh taste and see that the Lord is good!" while licking the top of the open can."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

In the Oven and on the Table

Monday: For our dinner I chopped up leftover chicken. We stuffed it in pita bread with some lettuce, poured plain yogurt over it and sprinkled with oregano and crushed red pepper.
Tuesday: We had a repeat of Monday night's dinner but on tortillas.
Wednesday: I made another batch of yogurt in the morning. Still using Sunday night's chicken leftovers, I made chicken pasta salad for dinner. Is it my imagination or do I make it frequently?
Thursday: I made some granola in the morning. For dinner we had Pizza Beans. The Eager Helper loves helping sort beans and I love that she is good at it and old enough to understand "don't eat that, it is yucky until we cook it." I still think if I left her in a room full of dried beans for more than 1 minute she would try one, but it is nice to include her in daily tasks with reasonable safety. Just before dinner she helped me again by mixing up some sugar cookie dough.
Friday: The Eager Helper and I spent all morning rolling out and cutting sugar cookies. Then we had to decorate them with pink and blue frosting. It took all morning. She is getting to be less of a hindrance in the kitchen as her fine motor skills improve, and the desire of this child to help in the kitchen is mighty! I gave her a bath :~D and lunch and then she took a very long and sound nap. Leftover Pizza Beans on tortillas for dinner.
Saturday: No big surprise, we had pizza for dinner. However, half the dough was used for cinnamon sticks. Who says I love my rut?
Sunday: Roast for dinner with green beans and one carrot. I love carrots but something about my fridge scares them into premature molding so we don't eat them much. Anybody have suggestions?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Just how big is that backyard?

There seems to be an accepted alternate spelling for the word "huge."
If you are a realtor, feel free to spell it "hugh."

Monday, August 14, 2006

In the Oven and on the Table

Oh the malaise and tiredness as I sit here on Thursday afternoon. Too much scrubbing. The dear in-laws arrive this evening and our living room wall is bedecked with a crayon "banner" made by myself and the eager helper. (Ah, Eager Helper, I think I have found our daughter's name for this blog.)
I am going to try to do the weekly food post here just so that you can all gag and then congratulate yourself and possibly blackmail me with the information herein. "Yes in-laws, she had royal goodies and a sparkling (storage unit) apartment to welcome you, but do you know how she fed her family the week of your arrival?"
Monday: I made some "Guilt Free Brownies." I can't actually remember if I made these on Sunday or Monday but they were good. They are made with Gerber Prune Puree in place of most of the butter and some egg. You could taste the prune flavor but the fudgey texture was great and they were chocolatey flavored too. I guess I'd have to compare their stats to the stats of my more favorite regular recipes to decide how worth it they are. I created something rather like a Hamburger Helper dinner for us. It was very easy and pretty quick. I was quite surprised with the results. That is to say it was tasty, not just easy. I browned and drained a pound (mol) of hamburger meat, added 3/4 cup brown rice, 2 cups (mol) of water and simmered it for 30 minutes. Then I dumped in a can of petite diced tomatoes (I have fallen in love with Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes, especially their Chipotle flavored ones which I used for this.) and some sliced black olives. I had hoped for enough leftovers for another meal but it was an awfully big hit.
Tuesday: I couldn't tell you what on earth I did on Tuesday, only that as dinner time approached I began to say "gah!" I could not come up with dinner ideas. The Eager Helper loves rotini ("curly noodles") no matter what I do to it, so I boiled some of that and thought I'd add veggies and some vinegrette. I threw some frozen black eyed peas in with the pasta and asked the bread winner to pick up a can of corn when he stopped for milk. Alas, there was no corn at the dairy store of choice. So. Admit it, you are saying "gah!" now. It wasn't all that bad actually. The Eager Helper only half-heartedly avoided the black eyed peas, and when called on it, didn't argue with finishing them. I can't come up with a fancy name for you though. Um. Black Eyed Pea Pasta Vinegrette?
Wednesday: Made some Whole-Wheat Bread in the a.m. and some divine Sacher Cookies in the afternoon. Maybe they will cancel each other out?? Leftover "Hamburger Helper" and leftover Pasta Weirdness Salad for dinner.
Thursday: Baked another loaf of bread this morning so we will have lots of fresh bread for sandwiches. I'm not a snob, really but I just hate buying bread. The Eager Helper mixed up bread crumbs and spices for meatballs so that we can have spaghetti for dinner.
Friday: Out for dinner at the German restaurant we recently discovered.
Saturday: Simple salad for dinner since we ate a late lunch out.
Sunday: I made a pie with my first oil crust. The crust was a disaster and I don't want to talk about it just yet. I filled half of the crust with apple, the other with strawberry rhubarb. It was an okay pie. Then I made an Indian dinner for my in-laws that was really easy but garnered much praise. It consisted of my standard Spicy Baked Chicken (thank you Madhur Jaffrey), some brown rice cooked in the microwave and Madhur Jaffrey's "Dry" Okra.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

mini-posts

This is all I have time for! Hastily edited and off the top of my head, here is what I am thinking about:

1. Thank goodness I didn’t get around to posting yesterday. It was going to be about how well potty training is going. Just thinking about it caused disaster in that department; I shudder to think what would have happened if I had actually articulated our progress. Dare I leave the word progress in this post even?

2. When you move from a 2,000+ sq. ft. home to a 900 sq. ft apartment you can’t make it look like anything but the storage unit it is. (“No, that isn’t a stack of boxes, it is a designer night-stand imported from Uruguay!”)

3. I had planned on writing about my insane cleaning efforts more, but I was, well . . cleaning, you know. Plus the little tyke is miffed about all my energy being directed away from her and the whining really stifled all creative energy when I did put the scrub brush down. It would have been fun to talk about scrubbing the ceiling (“Did the past tenant have a turkey fryer in here or just pop popcorn without the lid?”) even if I couldn’t make my OCD sound as convincing or hysterical as “Alice” did hers. (You know who I am talking about and if you don’t, then obviously you have enough ways to waste your time without my help.) You know you would have laughed about my dismantling the microwave vent only to remember that my m-i-l is too short to have seen the grime on it anyway. I’ll just let you imagine me hunching over and staggering around the apartment trying to get her perspective, much like one crawls around the house to baby-proof it.

4. I don’t know why I am putting forth so much effort on a probable lost cause. My in-laws like me, but I don’t think it will be possible for our area to seduce them. We fled the climate and setting that my in-laws equated with tranquil paradise and have moved to a place that makes them think of tarantulas, tornados and triple digit heat. It doesn’t help that we ended up in a city instead of a suburban or rural area. That wasn’t exactly our fault though we should have anticipated it. As soon as our lease is up we hope to somewhat rectify that part of the equation.

Monday, August 07, 2006

In the Oven and on the Table

Monday: I made some gorgeous Pitas in the morning, some of which we had at dinner with Indian Minced Meat and Peas.
Tuesday: The little helper and I made (Undouble) Double Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies to channel all our nervous energy and get some chocolate into Mommy's traumatized bloodstream. Chicken Salad for dinner.
Wednesday: I really knocked myself out today, making bread and a double recipe of Whole Wheat English Muffins in the morning. In the afternoon I made large and filling plum dumplings for our dinner. They are very odd German yeast dumplings (Germknodel) filled with stewed plums (Powidl) and are steamed/boiled. Very strange, but if you are crazy enough to acquire a taste for them, they are good. You pour melted butter (would you like a triple bypass with that?) over them and sprinkle liberally with powdered sugar and poppyseeds.
Thursday: Still going with the insane-kill-myself-before-I-even-get-to-basic-dusting vibe, I made whole wheat tortillas during the helper's nap. 2&1/2 batches because 2 would not be enough and just saying "triple batch" made varicose veins pop out all over my legs. Then we had tacos for dinner. I thought the whole wheat tortillas made with oil were tough and/or brittle. On a scale of 1 to 10 I would have said a 4 or 5 because I am spoiled like that. The obliging husband thought an 8 or 9 was more fair.
Friday: Another loaf of bread today. And then I made a blah little Chicken Pasta Salad for dinner but perked it up a bit with a honey dijon dressing.
Saturday: I made a weird jello salad that you don't want to know about and then we had pizza for dinner.
Sunday: Taco Salad for dinner and watermelon we bought at the Farmer's Market on Saturday.

Friday, August 04, 2006

It is so hot you can . . .

make yogurt on your balcony!
Stirring frequently, bring 1 quart of milk to a boil over medium heat (on the stovetop). Cool to 100 degrees and whisk in 3 tablespoons yogurt. Divide mixture between 2 pint jars and place jars in a small cooler or basin (rubbermaid tubs would work). Pour 100 degree water around the jars, cover with towels and place outside for 4-5 hours. Remove jars to refrigerator and chill.

No, I don't like the heat, but it sure beats freezin'!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Don't let it happen to you!

So, this morning we had two potty training accidents. And that is when the meaning of "no chocolate in the house" really sunk in. When I finished cleaning up and pulling all of my hair out, we made Double Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies (no, you dummy, not as a reward for her!). Except that, without chocolate chips, they weren't really "double," were they? But if there had been chocolate chips in the house we wouldn't have needed to make the cookies in the first place.
 
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