Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I Could Live on Bread Alone

I finally got around to baking out of my Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book and it is amazing! (Thank you, Sandy, for the gift card I used when buying the book!!!) I've decided I could be happy living on nothing but bread this winter. The "master recipe" makes enough dough for four loaves and you can leave it in the fridge for 14 days. I mixed it up on a Friday and baked my first loaf on Saturday morning. It is so good and oh so easy! All the dough was gone by Sunday.

I only ate one loaf--it really was one loaf minus one piece that I shared with Bryan. I baked the other three and shared them--one went to Bryan's grandma, one went to a new mom in my moms group and the other went to my neighbor, Miss Louise, who is also George's mom--I figured we owed her a treat for all the times we bother her. We also took Miss Louise a jar of homemade peach jam.

Evan was in such a rush when I told him we were going to Miss Louise's that it was impossible to get a good picture of him holding the basket. Miss Louise raved about the bread, and Bryan reprimanded me for telling her how easy it was. I suppose I should have let her think I spent all day on it.

I can't wait to try a few more recipes in the book!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

It Still Hurts

Yesterday the woman in front of me at the grocery store got carded. I didn't. Ouch.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Duane's Cake

My brother Duane turns 40 today. I can't believe I am old enough to have a brother turning 40, but I guess that is just one of the hard facts of life. We're going to go visit him tomorrow, which means I will be whipping up what we lovingly refer to as "Duane's Cake."

When I was little, the only time my mom would make this certain cake was on Duane's birthday. It was his favorite then and, even if it isn't now, he is nice enough to act like it is, which makes us all happy. Growing up I would wait all year to get a slice of this cake (I think one slice is all Duane would let me have and it was his cake after all).

The cake isn't as important as the icing, which is a fluffy white icing that is to die for. It is a bit time consuming because you have to scald the milk then add it to the butter mixture a tablespoon at a time so you don't melt everything. But it is worth the wait! And fattening enough that it is probably better we only have it once a year.

Here is the recipe for Duane's icing.

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 egg white, beaten
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup milk

Cook milk on medium heat until scalded. In separate bowl, cream butter, shortening and sugar. Add beaten egg white a little at a time. Add milk a little at a time being careful not to melt the creamed mixture. Beat mixture well and add vanilla. Ta-da! That is it. Oh so good!

Evan helped me with the cake. Actually, he just got a tablespoon of batter in a bowl, but he made the most of it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What a Difference a Year Makes

One year ago this week, Bryan, Evan and I were in New York for Evan's surgery to have his hemangioma--a vascular birthmark--removed. Evan was almost seven months old and the time leading up to the surgery had been frustrating and upsetting. Hemangiomas are a type of vascular tumor that resemble a ball of twine that keeps getting larger and larger. The network of blood vessels just keeps growing in some babies, stops growing in others and could eventually go away on its own over the course of several years depending on its size.

Evan, like most babies, wasn't born with the hemangioma. It appeared when he was just a few days old on his left cheek and was hardly visible. They don't know what causes them, but they think it may have something to do with a placenta problem, which is why they are more common in premature babies.

This picture was taken on March 23 (Evan was two weeks old) and you can barely see the dot under his ear lobe.

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing - Photo Books

I asked the pediatrician about it, and she told us it was a hemangioma, but acted like it was no big deal. I did a little research and it confirmed most of what she said. Unfortunately it was all wrong. We watched for three months as the hemangioma grew and grew, each day Bryan and I were becoming more upset, asking more questions of the doctor, feeling helpless and fielding the sometimes rude comments from adults and children alike who would ask, "What is that thing on his face?"

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing - Photo Books

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing - Photo Books

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing - Photo Books

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing - Photo Books

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing - Photo Books

We finally found the Vascular Birthmark Foundation, http://www.birthmark.org/, and learned all the information we had up to that point was outdated and some of it was completely wrong. We eventually made our way to the Vascular Birthmark Institute at Beth Israel Hospital in New York and met with the world-famous surgeon, Dr. Milton Waner. We also met dozens of other families who were in our same situation. A huge weight was lifted. We finally found someone who took the hemangioma seriously and who could help us.

Had we found Dr. Waner earlier, he could have removed Evan's hemangioma with a laser, but by the time Evan was three months old, the hemangioma had already grown too large. We decided to wait until Evan was six months old to remove the hemangioma so his little body could handle the anesthesia better. The hemangioma continued to grow, eventually pushing up against Evan's ear, which could have become deformed had we not removed the tumor.

We headed to New York the day before the surgery...I tried to keep the mood light, but I know Bryan and I were both a ball of nerves. (The helmet Evan is wearing was to help round out his head, which developed a flat spot--nothing to do with the hemangioma).

I held Evan in the operating room as they put him to sleep. I was nervous, but I also had an incredible sense of calm because I knew we had found the best surgeon and the best hospital to care for Evan. This was the last picture we took of the hemangioma.

The surgery took about an hour and a half--apparently "unhooking" those blood vessles is pretty time consuming. Bryan and I were with Evan when he woke up, and he looked at us like, "I know something just happened, but I'm not quite sure what it was." They had given Evan a good dose of morphine before he woke up, so we decided, with the doctor's approval, to head for home after snapping this quick picture with Dr. Waner (who is absolutely amazing).

Now, a year later, Evan's scar is barely visible. We spent the "one-year anniversary" of the surgery having fun at a nearby farm.

I'm so happy we had the hemangioma removed. Hemangiomas aren't completely harmless, they can rupture and bleed, the can put a strain on the heart from all the extra blood they require and they are disfiguring. Dr. Waner confirmed it was growing up until it was removed, so who knows how large it could have gotten. If any of you know someone whose child has a hemangioma, please refer them to the Vascular Birthmark Foundation.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

An Open Apology

Dear Evan,

I owe you an apology. For the past two weeks I have recklessly accused you of throwing away BOTH sets of keys to our GMC Jimmy. I have turned this house upside down searching for the keys, checking all your hiding spots and turning over every cushion. My efforts were fruitless, which further supported my theory that your love of garbage cans led to our predicament.

I'm sure you've noticed that I've moved every garbage can possible in the house into a closet. I've also added something noisy to those doors to ensure I could hear you throwing something away. You should have seen how quickly I ran into your room yesterday when I heard you open your closet door. I made it in just in time to see you sticking something other than garbage in your diaper pail. I had visions of the keys and finally accepted I would have to call the dealership and find out how to get a new key made or watch the Jimmy rot away.

Then, something happened. After you went down for your nap, I pulled open the fridge and reached in at a funny angle to grab a Diet Coke. I saw a flash of silver. Could it be??? A key ring? TWO key rings? Yes. It was. There, nestled between the horseradish mustard and orange marmalade were our car keys. BOTH sets! I suppose if I ever made anything using the horseradish mustard or the orange marmalade we would have found them weeks ago. If you would have put them next to the Diet Coke or the milk we would have found them in a matter of hours.

The only good news is that the Jimmy is sort of an "extra" car right now while we figure out if we're going to try to sell it ourselves or take it to a dealership, so there wasn't a real sense of urgency.

So, Buddy--I'm sorry for telling so many people you threw the keys away. But, nonetheless, I'm keeping the garbage cans tucked away and I won't be letting you play with the keys anymore.

I love you.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Minmee! Minmee!

I was changing Evan’s diaper yesterday, which is always an adventure — I can’t imagine that he dislikes sitting around in a dirty diaper more than he dislikes having his diaper changed, but he puts up a fight nonetheless. He usually tries to stop me by pushing my hands away and saying, “Mama! Mama! Mama!” As we started the diaper change, he did this for a bit, but then he started saying, “Minmee! Minmee! Minmee!” I was sort of ignoring his chatter when I realized he was trying to say my name!

I stopped what I was doing, looked at him, and said, “Are you calling me Mindy?” He just started to laugh and kept saying it. I don’t know how he learned what my real name is, since I always refer to myself as mama when talking to him, but he has definitely picked up on it.

This morning, I decided to test him and said, “What is my name?” He smiled and said, “Minmee.” He has been calling me Minmee all day, too. Today at a birthday party when he wanted to go to the playground instead of singing happy birthday, he called out, “Minmee.” And when he wanted me to save him from the bath, “Minmee.” I’ve determined that he uses Minmee when there is a sense of urgency to his request, but mama will suffice for his non-urgent needs.

I knew he would learn my name eventually, but I didn’t think it would be this soon! It must mean he is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I've Gone Soft

Yesterday I had to go downtown to meet a client, which also means I had to put on a suit and a pair of heels. I haven't really thought about it, but since I have become a freelancer I have worn either sandals or some other type of comfortable shoe (along with jeans or capris). I was quickly reminded as I was walking the four blocks from Union Station where I parked to the client's office. Now, four blocks doesn't seem like that far...but somehow I developed massive blisters that formed, popped and then began to bleed within those four blocks. I was pretty well limping along by the time I made it to the 12th floor of the office building. Of course I didn't have any band aids, so I discreetly asked the receptionist if she had any. No luck. I trudged along, met with the client and did some research, all the while not letting on what an awful mess my feet were.

Then, I had to walk the four blocks back to Union Station, through all the shops, up the escalator and then to my car. I kicked my shoes off as soon as I unlocked the door. Oh the pain! I haven't had blisters like that in YEARS! And these were shoes I used to wear all the time. I applied some first aid when I got home, but I couldn't sleep last night because of the pain. That was even after I got out of bed and took some Tylenol. I think I've gone soft in the past three weeks. I might just have to wear some heels around the house to keep my feet in the calloused condition they must have been in before.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Accountants vs. Superheroes

Today was Evan's first day of preschool, which means last night I was running around at 10:00 packing his bag so the morning would be easier. As I was packing the bag, which the preschool gave us, I started thinking about what I would pack him for lunch. Then, it occurred to me that I should have gotten Evan a lunch box. Or even a brown bag. But, instead I reached into the pantry and pulled out a blue cooler bag with Deloitte in large letters across the side. In case you don't know, Deloitte is one of the big four accounting firms and where Bryan works.

As we were walking into the preschool today, sure enough, I saw kids carrying lunch boxes. One little boy seemed pretty pleased with his Spider Man box. And here was my little guy carrying in a bag with the name of an accounting firm splashed across the side. No offense to Bryan, but I think accountants are pretty far from comic book heroes. Luckily for Evan toddlers don't know much about what's cool and what isn't at this point, but I couldn't help but think I better get this all figured out before Evan hits kindergarten or else he's doomed to be the dorky kid in the class.

Then, today I read an article in Newsweek that said, "These days, even preschoolers can spot a pair of fake Ugg boots (nicknamed 'Fuggs')." The fact that I get my fashion news from Newsweek and not Vogue probably says a lot about my sense of style, or lack thereof. I think the last time I bought anything stylish was in 1993 when I got my first pair of Girbaud jeans. Even then I think I was a little behind the curve.

So, Evan, for your sake, I am going to start trying harder for both of us. I don't want to be the frumpy mom and I don't want you to be the dorky kid. I will pay more attention to the "in" lunchboxes, boots and clothes for kids. I'm not promising I will buy you a pair of Uggs, but I won't force you to wear Fuggs either--and at least I will know the difference.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Writer's Block

I feel like I haven't had very creative blog entries lately and I'm not quite sure why. Maybe it is because Evan is totally wearing me out during the day (in a good way!). Or maybe it is because the second he is down for a nap or out of the house with Bryan I spend every minute writing the stories I'm getting paid to write. Which, is a good thing because it means this freelancing thing is working for me.

It is only my third week as a freelancer, but I've met several deadlines already, submitted two invoices and wrote a guest blog for a company called Magnificent Publications. It was a fun piece to do, and Bryan helped me out by taking my picture that ran with it. You can read it at http://theeditorialadvantage.com/?p=263. I always love seeing my byline somewhere new.

I also entered a writing contest, which I don't think I've ever done. Real Simple was holding an essay contest for their Life Lessons section. While I'm sure I won't actually win, it did feel good to know I had written a piece and sent it in (a special thanks to Sandy and Ali who were nice enough to read it over for me).

I always remind myself: "What is the difference between a published writer and an unpublished writer? Persistence." And, Stephen King in his book says that at least rejection letters mean you're working. So, I'll keep writing away for the clients I already have and keep trying to add more.

Everything else is going well, but I need to figure out how to get Evan to sleep past 5:30 so I won't feel so darn tired!

Monday, September 15, 2008

This is How Accidents Happen

Evan outgrew this seat many many months ago, but I just hadn't packed it away to the attic yet. He still likes sitting in it every now and then, even though his head and feet are hanging off each end. I know this is how accidents happen, so I keep one hand on the bouncy seat at all times when he is in it. Or, I should say, when he was in it because I finally bit the bullet and put it away. I know it was the right thing to do, but it made me a little sad.

Friday, September 12, 2008

I'm Treating Myself

Tomorrow I am going to treat myself to a copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I've been wanting the book ever since I read about it online, but I thought I would get it at the library first and test a few recipes. When I went to the library yesterday, I found out I was number 17 on the wait list! This was right after I paid my $22 in late fees. Which would have bought at least one book--if not four or five off the bargain rack at the bookstore. (The library is near my house, so I'm not sure why I can't get those books in on time).

I have a Barnes and Noble gift card my friend Sandy gave me for my birthday, but I just can't ever bring myself to spend it. But, I received a 10 percent off coupon, so I'm going to splurge!

Apparently the book gives recipes for dough that you can keep in the fridge for weeks at a time. It isn't sourdough, but the authors said it takes on sourdough tones after a few weeks. I can't wait to try it out. I'll let you know how it goes!

UPDATE: Okay--I have the book. But, I ran out of time to bake! So, I'll try the bread later this week.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Comfort Food

This is my idea of comfort food...a cabinet stocked with canned fruit and jams that I made myself. I am like a squirrel stocking up nuts for the winter when it comes to preserving food this summer.

The canning all started this year with pickles. My grandma made the best pickles, which I wanted to try and replicate. I had to pose a lot of questions to my mom since my grandma didn't write anything down. I just opened the first jar of pickles and they are delicious! I only made five jars, which I thought would be enough. But, since I just ate, oh, half a jar, I'm wishing I had made more (at least they are low calorie, right?).

I may have to make another trip to the farmer's market this week to see if they still have any pickling cucumbers.

Here is the basic pickle recipe I used. I played around a bit by adding more garlic to a few jars and throwing a bay leaf into another jar. They are really easy to make, but the house will smell like vinegar for a few days. This recipe makes eight jars, but I didn't get quite enough cucumbers, so I ended up with five.

Dill Pickles
8 pounds pickling cucumbers (I like small ones, but the ones I ended up finding were 4-5 inches)
4 cups cider vinegar
12 cups water
2/3 cup pickling salt
16 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
2 bunches of fresh dill weed

Wash the cucumbers, and place in a bowl with cold water and ice cubes. Soak for about 2 hours. Sterilize eight, one quart canning jars (I just put them in the dishwasher) and boil the lids and rings for about ten minutes. It is best if you keep the lids, rings and jars hot.

In a large pot combine the vinegar, water and salt and bring it to a rapid boil. In each jar, place two half-cloves of garlic (or more--if you dare!), two sprigs of dill and enough cucumbers to fill the jar. Pack them in tight. Add two more sprigs of dill and two more garlic halves. Fill jars with the hot brine.

Wipe the tops of the jars to be sure no vinegar is on them. Screw on the lids. Many of mine were hot enough that they sealed on their own. But, for those that don't process the sealed jars in a boiling water bath for five to ten minutes.

Not only did the house smell like vinegar, but so did my clothes and my hair. So if you try this recipe, leave yourself enough time to take a shower before you need to leave the house!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Last night, Bryan and I had a conversation that led to my new favorite word: Floorio. It went a little something like this.

"What is Evan eating," I asked.
"A Cheerio," Bryan answered.
"We're out of Cheerios. Where did he get it?"
"He found it on the floor."
"Oh--so it is a Floorio."

Yes--occasionally, okay frequently, we have random Cheerios scatted throughout our house, and we do in fact let Evan eat them when he finds them. Have you ever tried to take a Cheerio away from a toddler?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Get This Boy Some Chicken

Evan loves chicken. I don't just mean he will polish off a leg when I cook chicken for dinner. I mean, he asks for it three meals a day. Today we went on a picnic with my moms group. I made a pasta salad full of fresh vegetables (carrots, zucchini, peas, corn, tomatoes). After Evan had played for a while, we were ready to have lunch. This is the conversation that ensued.
"Okay, Evan. Let's have some lunch," I said.

Evan looked at me and said, "Balk, balk, balk."

I tried to change the subject. "We are having noodles today." Evan has started saying the word noodle, so I was hoping he'd get on that track. No luck.

He repeated, "Balk, balk, balk."

"I don't have any chicken. I have noodles. Yum, noodles."

"Balk, balk, balk."

"Here, Evan, try a noodle."

"Balk, balk, balk."

"Do you want to try a carrot?"

"Balk, balk, balk."

"Here is a pea. Look, it is like a ball."

"Balk, balk, balk."

We eventually packed it up and went home. Evan never touched the pasta salad I made. Or the colorful array of veggies. I decided we better have chicken for dinner. As I was putting it in the oven, Evan saw the raw chicken and started balking, then crying because I wouldn't give him any. It took an agonizing 40 minutes before the chicken was done, but then Evan ate an entire leg and thigh and part of my chicken. I am just going to start keeping chicken on hand for emergencies like this. None of the parenting books prepared me for this.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Settling In

Last week was my first week as a write-from-home mom and I loved it. I took Evan to daycare on Tuesday so I could work, but he had an awful day (two weeks home with the grandparents made it really hard for him to go back). Luckily on Tuesday I found out he got into the preschool we've been waiting on, which will start next week. Yea!!!

It is more "school" oriented than the daycare, has a smaller class size and they sign, which Evan will love. So, since I knew we'd be doing the preschool next week and since he hates the daycare, I decided to try to get all the writing I need to do in during his naps and in the evenings. So far it is going well and I'm keeping up on the articles I have, but I haven't been able to pursue new projects. That will come with time time though!

Friday, September 5, 2008

They're Coming to Take Us Away

Today when I was doing laundry, Evan wanted to put each item on as I took it out of the dryer. Here he is in Bryan's shirt, but I think it looks a little too much like a straight jacket!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Feeling a Little Sappy

One of my most prized possessions is my seashell collection that was my grandmothers. As a little girl I spent countless hours sitting on the floor in front of her vanity where the shells were displayed. I would carefully remove the shells from their perch and hold them up to my ear. Sometimes my grandma would help me. Other times I would sneak into her room, paying close attention so I could put them back exactly as I had found them. I had never seen the ocean or set foot on a beach, but all the ocean must be came alive when I would hear the echo from the shells.

Today Evan and I were downstairs and he was looking at the shells in the hutch I keep them in. I took one and held it up to his ear. He listened quietly, as though the shell was telling him a secret. He looked at the shells with such wonder that it made me fall in love with them all over again.

I wish my grandma were here to hold the shells up to his ear like she did to mine. I wish she could tell me the story of how she got them. I have no idea where they came from, but she had them for as long as I can remember. She could have picked the up at a seaside shop or, more likely, someone brought them back to her as a souvenir. Maybe one of her brothers brought them back when they came home from the war. I don't know if my grandma ever visited the ocean or dipped her toes in its salty froth. I do know that she loved those shells, just like I love them now. I still hold them up to my ear and listen for the secrets of the universe.

I can't wait until I can tell Evan about the shells and especially about my grandma. About how she lived with us and that she used to let me sleep in her bed with her whenever I was scared. I'll tell him how she read to me every day and I think of her each time I read him "Hand Hand Finger Thumb." That she made the world's best chicken and dumplings, but she never used a recipe. I'll tell him that we were convinced we'd win the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes and she'd send in her entry form each time it came in the mail. He may not care that I watched the Miss America pageant with her every year or that her hair was red just like his is now, but I hope he does.

There are things about her I might not tell him, like how she was too proud to admit she snored, so one time my brother recorded it just to prove it to her. I probably won't tell him that I still kick myself for not getting to see her one last time right before she died or how often I wish I could have just one more hour with her, or even just one minute to show her my beautiful baby and thank her for being exactly who she was.

Even though she isn't here with us now, I still like to think she is looking down and knows exactly who I've become, who I married and how sweet my baby is. I also hope she knows how much I miss her.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Off He Goes

I love this picture of Evan looking back at me for a little reassurance as he takes an impromptu dip in the ocean with Papa Stu and Grandma Betty. They waded in at the spur of the moment, which is why Evan is only sporting a diaper and not a bathing suit.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Guiding Light

Over the weekend we visited Drum Point Lighthouse in Solomons Island, Maryland. It was built in the late 1800s, operated until the 1960s, I believe, and now is part of a museum. I had just watched a show on the Travel Channel on haunted lighthouses, so I was hoping for a great ghost story, but no such luck. That is probably a good thing, though, since it probably would have made me too scared to sleep.

Here is the light at the top.
The view from the deck.
And the whole family in front of the light house (that is us with Bryan's parents).

I just read about a haunted lighthouse in Scotland, Maryland, which was only about 10 miles from the Drum Point Lighthouse. Unfortunately, I didn't know that until today! I think I'm going to start trying to convince Bryan he should take me. But, I think I'll wait to tell him it is haunted since I'm sure I'd have to leave every light in the house on after a visit there. It makes Bryan crazy when I leave lights on!