Thursday, December 23, 2010

Adventures in preschool animal petsitting

If you followed my fish saga on facebook last week, you know that what I thought would be an easy, straightforward task is a little more complicated. Our "job" for the co-op preschool is taking care of the animals over the break.

Well, a little humor to add to the fish saga. Girlchild sees the turtles copulating.
"Hey Mama, that turtle keeps trying to climb over the top of the other turtle. I think he needs some help."

bomp chicka bow bow...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wordless Wednesday • New family activity

We went out for a walk-about specifically to look at all of our neighbors' holiday lights. The kids couldn't have been more excited about each house. So fun and positive, plus it helped wear them out after dinner and before bed. I'm tempted to add hot chocolate to the next walk-about, but that might not have the same calming effect.

OK, that's enough words for Wordless Wednesday...


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sparkly Shoes

I was driving and saw a woman getting in to her car. The light was sparkling off her golden shoes. They had to be covered in gold crystals. I thought of Dorothy's ruby slippers, but in gold. I almost pulled over to tell her how gorgeous they are, but then noticed that I was about to hit another car so I decided to focus on driving. I've been obsessing over those shoes. What were they made of? Where can I find them? Could I get away with wearing them in the daytime?

I peruse {this is glamorous} whenever I get a chance. It really is glamorous and lovely, and I find inspiration daily. I don't think these are exactly the shoes I saw the other day, but close enough to make me smile.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Anna's Birthday Beach Trip

Whenever asked what she wanted to do for her birthday, Anna has been saying (for months) that she wanted to go to the beach. I was so glad! I mean, who doesn't want an excuse to go to the beach? So here we are! At this moment (3:30 p.m.), she and Brian are swimming in the indoor pool while Eric has some quiet time. I'm sitting here drinking some extra-yummy wine, looking out the window at the crashing waves, and playing with the video clips we took in Gearhart earlier. Here's what I came up with:

And here are a few other photos from today...
Selves Portrait at the Peter Iredale

He's the king of my world, in any case.

Thinking their daddy is pretty silly.

Jack spent most of his first beach trip with his nose in the sand.

Anna inspecting a shell, Brian getting a crab leg away from Jack.
Anna's latest creation.

Does that boy know how to pose, or what?


A lot of "firsts" for Jack today. First "Head-Out-The-Window."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Christmas tree is not perfect, but it's perfect.

It's a new phenomenon for me to share Christmas tree decorating duties with anyone. I used to be really picky about how it all went together. I would spend hours as a child re-arranging the family tree, and have really enjoyed having my own tree as an adult. The kids were mildly interested in helping me last year, but I did most of it without them, then let them add a few ornaments around the bottom at the end. They were fine with that, I think. To be honest, in the past I didn't really care if they were fine with it!

This year, we did the whole thing together, and WOW, was that ever fun.
They were so enamored with the process; delighted to look at each ornament and find the perfect spot for each one. Anna said to me several times, "Mama! This is SO MUCH FUN!"
I agree, Darling.
Louie was quick to inhabit empty ornament boxes!

A sad moment for me came when I pulled out this rottweiler ornament. Our friends Pete & Karen gave it to Brian and I the Christmas after Kato died. It looks a lot like Kato, in fact.

The weird thing about that ornament is how the front leg broke off. The same front leg that Sancho lost when he first got bone cancer. So now the rottweiler ornament is a tribute to both K-Doggy and Sancho. Sweet memories.

Eric, being three, got tired and crashed on Brian before too long. As did Louie, but Louie will take any opportunity to crash on Brian.
 Anna was with me until the very end. She had a little melt-down when I wouldn't let her put up my Swarovski snowflakes. I've been buying one each year since Brian and I got married. They are very expensive, and very special. As a compromise, I laid them all out and we talked about each one. Important things that happened each year, what the snowflakes represent. Even why 2001, 2002 & 2003 are each a little bit broken because Sancho knocked over the Christmas tree in 2003. She was especially interested in 2005 and 2007, as those were the years she and her brother were born. (I'm kicking myself now for not buying an extra one those years so they could each have the one from their birth year!) I finally agreed to allow her to hand me the snowflakes, one at a time, and I put them on the tree. It seemed like a good compromise to both of us.
2005 Swarovski Snowflake
It was so much more fun for me to share this experience with the kids, and I couldn't be happier with the final result.
I love that the ribbons we use as garlands are unevenly clumped together. I love that Eric wanted to place all the animal ornaments, and Anna only wanted to place "The Pretty Things."
It's not perfect, but Wow, is it ever PERFECT.

And we only broke three bulbs.

The Girlchild's Birthday Dinner

My mom always asked my brothers and me what we wanted for our birthday dinners. It was so fun to get to choose, but I always chose the same thing: Beef Stroganof. My mom makes the most amazing Beef Stroganof. One year, I wanted a pink party, so she made strawberry cake, served strawberry ice cream, and for the meal we had ham and pink mashed potatoes. My mom inspires me in so many ways!

For her birthday, the Girl said she wanted "Birthday Soup" and "Pink Noodles," so I stole a page from Mom's book.

When questioned, she explained that Birthday Soup is made with chicken broth, potatoes and tomatoes. Easy enough! I have a template* for soup that works for me every time.

Saute in a dutch oven with a little olive oil:
1 medium onion, peeled & diced
4-5 potatoes, peeled & diced (I used a couple Yukon golds mixed in with baking potatoes. Baking potatoes are best, but I was running low. Yukons aren't my first choice for this because they get a little rubbery when mashed, but they worked fine mixed in the soup.
sea salt & Penzey's India Tellicherry black pepper (my fave)

When softened a bit, add 
3 cloves of minced garlic
14 oz (1 can) stewed tomatoes
28 oz (1 large can) crushed or diced tomatoes
2 quarts of organic chicken broth
About a tablespoon total of dried parsley & basil
Simmer gently for about 30 minutes, until the potatoes are all the way soft.
Turn off heat, puree using an immersion blender, and season to taste.
At this point, I added a touch of cream, which does not follow my usual soup format. Jeanie wisely also added a four-pepper blend, which really was perfect.
Serve with freshly grated parmigiano Reggiano and crusty bread.

OK, so Birthday Soup... Check.
Anna & AmmaKee with Birthday Soup. It's kind of pink, anyway.

"Pink Noodles" were a little more tricky. At first I thought about pureeing beet or tomato into my pasta dough, but that wouldn't really be pink enough, and it would take a long time to roast the beets. So I settled on food coloring. Fortunately, I have several different colors of the Wilton cake-decorating colors and was able to add enough blue to balance out the orange-ness of hot pink added to eggs. Also fortunately, I had my sister-in-law Tammy there to help me figure it out.
The result was a delightfully off-putting hot pink pasta. 
But what to serve over the Pink Noodles? What else is pink and delicious? I'll tell what is pink and delicious. Shrimp and pancetta, that's what. Here's what I did:

Saute chopped pancetta and sliced crimini mushrooms until mushrooms are about halfway softened. Add a little butter to get the rendering started, as well as a tiny bit of salt (not too much since the pancetta is salty) and some fresh ground pepper.
Pour in about 2 cups of dry white wine, and reduce a bit until the alcohol is mostly cooked off.
Add one pound of bay scallops and 20 oz (2 bags in this case) of medium-sized raw shrimp. Bubble gently until the scallops and shrimp are just cooked, and pour over the pasta.
Pink Noodles, with Shrimp & Bay Scallops. I know it looks nasty, but it was actually quite delicious.
 Here are a few more pics from the dinner party:

Meyer Lemon Cheesecake Marbled with Pureed Strawberry

Two Papas. Note Mike's t-shirt: Anna as a newborn!

Festive, girly-girl table

Sorry to take pictures of you all eating...

Jeanie & me
Some Litwins: Brian, Mike & Tammy

Do you have a favorite Birthday Meal?
What do you think of Anna's Pink Noodles?
Let me know!

*Soup template: Instead of tomatoes, any veggies will do. Any flavor of broth will do. Instead of potatoes, sweet potatoes or squash.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Daughter's Kitchen Creativity: Pumpkin Slimers

The Girl and I have always loved cooking together, but she often gets frustrated with having to follow directions.

I can't begin to imagine where she gets that quality.

So now we have a fun new trick. I ask her what we should create, and she tells me the ingredients she wants to use, and a general idea of format.
Our first big one was "Pumpkin Slimers." We had a little pumpkin out on the front step, and she really wanted to cook with it. I couldn't convince her that curried pumpkin soup was a good idea, she really wanted "Slimers." While she worked on scooping out the pumpkin, I questioned her about what she had in mind for a Pumpkin Slimer. It took a while to get a description of the format out of her. She said the filling is pumpkin, eggs, sugar, milk, honey and cinnamon, and we should make the crust out of flour, butter, salt, sugar and milk. No problem — that's easy enough to translate into a pie.

"Nooooo, it's not a pie," she tells me.
She described little burritos, and if we had more time that day, I would have figured out a dessert empanada application, but alas.  I suggested lining muffin tins with the crust, and we were in business.
For the filling, we roasted the pumpkin. She was skeptical about this step, as that took what felt like an eternity to a four year old. I thought she would lose interest, but we used the time to make the crusts.
She was really insistent on the ingredients — my pie dough recipe does not include milk, but ice water. It turned out fine with milk, though. Who knew?
Grandma Edna's Perfect Pie Crust, with Anna's Modifications:
3 cups flour (I use Bob's Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour)
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cup shortening (I was able to convince her that this would be better than butter)
1 egg
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 tablespoons ice water (I snuck them in)
2 tablespoons milk
Without overworking, roll out dough on lightly-floured surface. Prick holes throughout (Anna loved this part) and bake at 450º for 10 minutes, until lightly golden.

 For the filling, I looked up recipes in my favorite The Bon Appetit Cookbook, and really loved the "Spirited Pumpkin Pie" recipe from it. (I highly recommend this book, whenever I have an ingredient I want to use, I go here first to see if there is some wonderful recipe for it. I've been delighted with every recipe I've tried.)
Here's what Anna & I came up with:
1 small pumpkin, roasted & pureed (about 3 cups)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3 large eggs
1 cup whipping cream (I use this in my coffee every morning, so it's always in the house!)
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons dark rum
2 teaspoons Mexican vanilla extract

Whisk it all together, adding one ingredient at a time (that worked well for Anna), then poured in to the little crusts. Bake at 375º for 20 minutes, then reduce temp to 325º and bake until centers are just set.

I'm so sorry I didn't take any pictures of the Pumpkin Slimers. We took them to my brother and sister-in-law's house for dinner with the fam, and they were a big hit. Anna was so proud, as was I. The real success, though, was the birth of a new era in our cooking together.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Anna is 5!

My darling little daughter turns five today. She's so excited, she woke up early, ran downstairs and said, "Mama... how old am I?"
Here are just a few of my favorite Anna pics:

Photo by Leah Harb

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I'm going to a party! On a weeknight!

Ok, I've chosen to be at home more now that I have kids. But every once in a while, a girl has got to get out. So I'm wearing my highest shoes and my biggest statement ring, and I'm OUT!

Happy Thursday...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

It was random

Who got in to Disney Social Media Moms? I think it was random. I keep feeling like I need to justify my presence in the lucky few who got in. That's me, projecting. I've got to get over it.
Disney is putting on this event for "Social Media Moms." No definition of what that means. It doesn't mean you have to make money or get free stuff from your blog. It doesn't mean you need 10,000 followers.
This event is clearly not for A-list bloggers, it's just for "social media moms." I'm active on Facebook and Twitter (or as my boss says, "Tweeter"). I've recently started this blog. I tweet for my employer, and started the zoo in both before they even thought it was important. Also, guess what? I'm a mom. So there. I'm a social media mom.
I don't need anyone else to tell me that I don't have the klout score of so-and-so. Or the rankings or stats of anyone else. I know. I'm ok with that. We all have different goals and we all have to start somewhere.
As for who got in and who didn't?
I think it was random.
My registration confirmation email is time-stamped 11:10 a.m. PST. I'm sure I was one of the very first to get registered. But I've read the posts of many others who had the same or very close time stamp who did not get in, and many with much later time stamps who did. So I think Disney must have had a system failure, accepted too many registrations, somehow couldn't discern who's was submitted when, and were faced with what to do about it. I think they must have randomly chosen from those who had been allowed to submit a registration.
I wish they would issue some sort of statement so those of us who got in could stop feeling defensive about it and those of us who didn't get in could move on, content that it wasn't personal. Not that it would make things right — this was clearly a fail on several levels. But it would at least stop the speculation.
I'm a little bummed that my excitement is tempered by this pall hanging over the process. Not too bummed, mind you, I'm SO THRILLED to get this opportunity. I've been scouting around the blog conferences for about a year, trying to decide if it was worth the investment of time and money at this point. This conference is a perfect marriage of learning, networking, and family time. And an amazing price. So yeah, I'm glad I got in.
I just wish it had gone down a little differently.
Cheers and pixie dust.... • ·*°`º*· • . • ·*°`º*· • ·*°`º*· Swank

Friday, December 3, 2010

Disney Social Media Moms: still waiting...

The Orange Circle of Frustration is haunting me.
While I didn't have any trouble registering (I was in and out by 11:12 my time), the orange circle spinning while the page was loading was still nerve-racking.
For many, the orange circle syndrome lasted for more than an hour!

Well, even though I registered right away, I'm still waiting.... and waiting... for the confirmation.
Which I'm calling a validation/verification because I really have no idea how the decisions are made about who gets to attend.

I'm seeing a lot of tweets and posts of people getting denied access, but I still haven't gotten the follow up email from WDW.
So the orange circle is haunting me....

I was just at a playdate, and they had stickers on their wall that used to be a sun, but is now this:

I think the other mama thought I was pretty strange when I asked to take a picture of her Orange Circle of Frustration. Although I think she'll see it in a new light when she's sitting by her son's bed, waiting and waiting for him to go to sleep!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Disney Social Media Moms

Well, I just registered for the Disney Social Media Moms conference.
I've been wanting to attend a social media/blog conference for about a year, but since I'm not in to monetizing my blog, it's never seemed like the right investment (of money and time away from the family).
But this conference presents a unique opportunity. Not only is it fabulously priced, it welcomes the family!
So... I can learn more about social media (about which I am passionate and nerdy) AND have some fun with the family?
Count me in!

I hope I get to go, but there are a lot — and I mean A LOT — of people who want to go, and space is very limited. I go back and forth on wondering who should really be attending this conference. Sometimes I think it's me, sometimes I don't feel like I'm quite the target demographic yet. I don't have 10,000 followers on twitter or 5,000 Facebook friends... but really, do I want them? I have great relationships and I value them. So is more really better? Nah. Anyway, I'm grateful that I got my registration submitted.
If I get in, AWESOME. If not, it wasn't meant to be, and we'll go to Mexico instead... :)