Imagine the bed-head

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:12 pm

This morning, Denny was trying to get Miles out of bed.  As usual, it was a challenge.

M:  I wish I had suction cups on my head.

D:  Why?

M:  So I could stick to my dudju [pillow].


Post Thanksgiving return to mostly whole foods

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:09 pm

After the major food-related holidays, it’s nice to do a little cleanse, even for just a couple-three weeks before the next holiday hits.  I stuffed my face full of all sorts of delicious things over the Thanksgiving weekend (my dad is a great cook and my mom is a great baker, and between the two of them, I’m a great bit logey).

Before we left, I made white chicken chili (navy beans, green chiles, onion, garlic, bay leaves, chicken stock, chicken, assorted spices including my newly beloved chipotle powder), which we munched on for a couple of days.  Now that we’re back, we’ve had tilapia with fruit salsa and this lemon-herb chicken I found on epicurious.com.  I didn’t have any fresh thyme, so I used a dried bouquet garni mix.  I served it with baked sweet potatoes and mixed veggies.

The tilapia is one of my old standards.  Denny mentioned that it’s a recipe almost as old as our relationship, because I invented it very early on.  It’s one of my most successful inventions (the short guys who live at my house notwithstanding).  I serve it with couscous and asparagus.

The Tobin Times #15

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:32 pm

My little sunshine puppy,

You are so smart.

We always figured you were pretty on top of things, but this month you have been giving us so much proof.  You are so creative in the ways you communicate.  You know many, many words (including, as of this morning, a key entry in the Clarke lexicon:  dudju).  You also use a variety of nonverbal signals that are clear, consistent, and understandable.  You squeal a high-pitched Oooooo to mean Goldfish crackers, whereas other kinds of crackers are ca-cuhs.  You wave your arm in a circle just like Justin Roberts did at his concert to indicate you want me to turn on the song “I Chalk.”

Last night, your brother was getting ready for bed and happened to brush his teeth in his underwear.  Were you ever excited when you saw Spider-man on his butt.  “‘Pide!  ‘Pide!” you cried, poking his butt until he laughed and laughed.  Last night I think you dreamed about your brother, because you sat up straight in bed and said, “Bubby!”

When we were visiting Mubby and Skittergramps over Thanksgiving, Skittergramps took you to the garage to see the fish in their winter home.  After that, you kept going to the garage door and saying “Eesh.”  I hope you didn’t feed them every time you suckered a tall person into taking you out to visit them, or they’re going to suffer from overfed fish syndrome.

I cannot let this month pass by without mentioning Harry Belafonte’s classic chart-topper on the topic of indentured servitude in tropical agriculture, “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song).”  Miles learned it at school, and then I showed him the clip from the movie Beetlejuice that features the song.  He loved it, you loved it, and we’ve been listening to it a lot lately.  You like to sing along:  “Six foot, seven foot, eight foot…” and you chime in with “BUN!”  You also sing the refrain:  “Day-doh!  Daaaaaaaay-doh!”  Sometimes it comes out more like “Day-go,” but more and more often you’re pronouncing it perfectly.  In fact, you were having a very unusual power hour at 4 a.m. this morning, and you burst into a chorus of a well-articulated “Day-o” as your dad and I were trying to ignore you.  You sometimes even copy your brother and splat your hand onto your face, just like the haunted shrimp cocktail did to the dinner guests in the movie.  You like to dance to that song and many others.  You do a funny little sway with your head cocked to one side.  Sometimes you fall down.

You are crazy for anything water-related, which is harder to manage now that the weather is getting cold.  When I take a shower in the morning, you whip the shower curtain open.  It soaks the bathroom floor and your entire body pretty well.  Sometimes you even reach in and rub my legs, which I assume is your attempt to wash me like I do you when you take a bath.  You love your baths, especially when you share one with your brother.  You ask for bubbles.  You splash.  You play with bath toys.  You don’t mind a bit when I dump water on your head to rinse your hair.  You drink bath water out of the rinse cup (gross).  Last time, you ceremoniously stood up and peed.  We drained the water before you could drink any of that batch.

Halloween was lots of fun, of course.  You were a radioactive spider to go with your brother’s Spider-man costume, and you joined right in with his school Halloween party like you were one of the gang.  We also went to a party at some friends’ house, and you and your brother had so much fun we didn’t even leave until ten p.m.  That’s a personal record, I think.

You’re still mostly a jolly fellow, though we’re starting to see more obvious displays of frustration when you don’t get what you want (e.g., an open cup of water to stick your hands in and dump onto the floor).  You can make some impressively loud shrieks of disapproval.  Still, I wouldn’t change my overall assessment of your personality.  You still laugh much more than you cry.  You still love adventure, like going down the big twirly slide at the playground.  You still give sweet hugs and kisses, and all I have to do to lift my spirits is think of the way you say “Mommy!” as you run toward me, a huge smile on your face.

You’ve also started to appreciate the humor of dishonesty.  A few days ago, you were in the hallway, and I reached my arms out to you, hoping you’d come in for a cuddle.  You smiled, nodded, and ran toward me.  Just short of my lap, you stopped, grinned a naughty grin, and shook your head no.  Then you turned around and ran back to the playroom.  Maybe this is your version of “Whoops, changed my mind.”  That’s a game Skittergramps and Uncle Tyler invented, and your daddy plays it with you a lot.  It involves holding you, letting your escape briefly, and snatching you back into his lap.  Oh, how you laugh as you pause mid-escape, waiting for your dad to grab you.

We’ve booked a trip for this February, which means you’ll get your first passport.  This is about the same age Miles was when he got his first one, and I’m so excited to see your sweet little round baby face in a passport photo.  There’s so much world to see, my love, and I am honored to be able to join you on your earliest explorations.  Sooner or later, your teasing will become more serious, and you’ll want to run off on your own farther than the playroom down the hall.  I’ll have to sit on my hands to keep from reaching out and pulling you back to me, because “Whoops, changed my mind” isn’t a game that lasts forever.

We’ll splash together in bathtubs and swimming pools and oceans, my darling, as long as you’ll let me.  I won’t mind if the bathroom floor gets wet.

I love you.



White chocolate and brandied cranberry cookies

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:48 pm

I make these every year, and every year I forget where I found them.  I’m finally just going to blog them so I can find them easily next Thanksgiving.  Original source.  Is that redundant?

  • 1 cup of brandy (to soak the cranberries in, then saving 1 1/4 teaspoons of it for later)
  • 1 cup of dried cranberries
  • 1 cup (two sticks) of butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup of lightly packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of white chocolate chips

1 Put the cranberries in a wide and shallow bowl, pour in a bit of brandy. Enough so they’re surrounded by it, but not drowning. Cover and place in the fridge for an hour or more. Afterwards, place a colander over a bowl and pour the cranberries and brandy through, putting the cranberries and the brandy they soaked in aside.

2 Preheat oven to 375°F. Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugars and beat again until light, fluffy and well incorporated.

3 Add the eggs, vanilla extract, and add 1 1/4 teaspoons of the brandy that the cranberries soaked in (as for the rest, I suggest popping it in a glass and topping it off a bit for yourself). Beat well until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl midway through to ensure even mixing.

4 Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt, then add to the mixture a bit at a time, beating until just mixed. Fold in the brandy soaked cranberries and white chocolate chips. Let chill for 15 minutes in the fridge.

5 Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (a baker’s best friend) and place rounded spoonfuls down on the sheet. Bake at 375°F for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for a minute, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

*I find that adding the baking soda separately seems to form softer cookies. This is how my mom and grandmother taught me, and if there is actual science behind it, I’m not aware but it seems pretty consistent, and it won’t ruin the cookies if you try it this way.



Pecan-crusted chicken

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:10 pm

I haven’t made anything new lately, but tonight I did.  This recipe is adapted from Taste of Home magazine.

Pecan-crusted Chicken

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 oz each—I actually horizontally sliced two enormous ones)
  • 1 cup pecans, finely chopped in a food processor
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp Northwoods seasoning (or other seasoning blend of your choice—next time I’ll add more since the coating was a little bland)
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • olive oil and butter for frying

Combine pecans, cornstarch, salt, pepper, and seasoning blend.  Shake some cornstarch onto a plate.  Lightly but thoroughly coat the chicken cutlets.  Dunk in egg, then coat with pecan blend, pressing to help the coating adhere.  Cover and refrigerate for at least half an hour.  This really helps the coating from falling off.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Heat a heavy skillet to medium.  If you have a metal rack, place it over a baking sheet.  Add a little olive oil and butter, maybe a teaspoon each, to the pan.  Let the butter melt, then add as many chicken cutlets as can comfortably fit.  You may have to do two batches.  Brown on one side, then flip (watch them carefully, as the pecans burn easily).

Once all the cutlets are browned on both sides, put on the rack and place in the oven.  Cook until a meat thermometer reads 170F.

I served this with an easy honey-mustard sauce:  a couple of blobs of honey, a couple of blobs of dijon mustard, and some sour cream, all mixed together and warmed up.  We also had a quinoa/brown rice blend and mixed vegetables.



Monthly Miles Memo #58

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:26 pm

My dear Miles,

I am perhaps later with this Monthly Miles Memo than I’ve ever been.  After the day we’ve had today, I was inclined to put it off another day.  But really, if this is to be an honest account of your early years, then I shouldn’t only write them when I’m feeling one hundred percent delighted with our lives.

A dad at your school today at pick-up was lamenting about how tired he was.  He has three kids, and two of them don’t sleep so great.  He quickly admonished himself, though, and remarked that having three healthy kids is a wonderful thing, even if it can be tiring.

Having a preschooler and a toddler is a wonderful thing, even if it can be tiring.  Even if you threw a crying fit when you found out the after-school snack I got for you was animal crackers—something you’ve always enjoyed.  And you couldn’t possibly wait until we got home to have something else to eat, because that two-minute drive simply cannot happen without a snack.  And then it was pretty horrible when you finished them and I didn’t have any more.

We had your fall conference with your teachers last week.  Your dad and I exchanged a few glances as your teacher gave you an absolutely glowing report.  I think one of us may have made some sort of strange noise when he said that you are always agreeable and willing to compromise.  Who is this child, and can he come over to our house?

I know you’re capable of being a fantastic kid.  I know, at your core, you are sweet and patient and caring.  I see it often in how you interact with your brother, and your teacher shared a few specific anecdotes that illustrated your unselfishness and patience.  I’m sure it’s frustrating and overwhelming to be you.  Your brother bit you really hard today.  You moaned and cried about it for a very long time, probably longer than you could even remember which arm he got.  To your credit, you didn’t hit him or do anything else retaliatory.  You said, “We don’t bite in this family!  I don’t want to see you do that again!”

At least something’s sinking in (besides Tobin’s teeth).

We had some fun times this month.  You caught your dad’s and my enthusiasm about the election, and you led us in some rousing cheers of “Ba-RACK O-BA-ma” (with arm pump) and “Fired up, ready to go.”  You helped me make a campaign logo-themed tart.  You are also quite sure there was some sort of third-party candidate called the Iron Cake.  I have no idea what or who that is.

Halloween was a good time.  Along with several of your school friends, you dressed as Spider-Man.  Tobin and I went to school to watch your Halloween party and parade.  I love watching you at school.  You’re so mature and composed in that setting.  We also went to a Halloween party at the house of one of your friends.  Seeing the madness that was a bunch of preschool and elementary kids hopped up on Pixie Sticks swinging swords around, I had to appreciate your generally calm nature.

Well, would you look at that.  I seem to have talked myself back into being in a good mood about you.  It’s amazing what a few minutes to myself and a chance to reflect on the month will do.

Oh, another exciting thing that happened this month was that we made some changes in your room décor.  We bought a rug that we intended to use in the living room, but once we rolled it out, it didn’t quite work in there.  After a little thought, we decided that a brown rug with a big koi fish on it would be pretty great in your room.  So we set about tearing out your carpet, which you helped to do.  We rearranged the furniture a bit to create a large play space in the room.  I was against it, because it’s bad feng shui to have your feet pointed at the wall with the door on it, but your dad felt strongly about the topic.  You haven’t woken up screaming in the night like I predicted, so I guess he wins.  We also got you a new, bright green duvet cover.  It all looks pretty cool, and I think you’re proud of it.  It’s fun and youthful without being juvenile, so I don’t think we’ll have to replace everything in three years.

You keep asking for bunk beds for you and Tobin to share.  Once that kid gets his act together, I think that would be pretty fun.

You’re a good kid, Miles.  You really are.  It’s tough being little, and sometimes it’s tough being a mommy, but I know you’re on your way to greatness.  Thanks for hanging out with your dad for a while so I can regather my brain enough to remember that.

I love you.



Back to the future

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:11 pm

Miles thought he needed to poop, but when he got to the bathroom, it didn’t happen.

M:  Maybe it went into my butt and turned back into food.


Almond cream cheese tart

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:15 pm

I’ve made this so many times I figured I should blog it, just in case my original source (foodandwine.com) takes it down or something.

This is super-easy and very tasty.  You can adjust it to use whatever fruit is in season, though the original calls for peaches.  Today I’m using raspberries and blueberries arranged in the Obama logo, but that’s just because I’m all excited about the election.  It may well come out stupid looking, but I’m too cheerful to care.

Almond cream cheese tart

  • 5 oz vanilla wafers
  • 1/2 cup whole almonds, roasted but unsalted
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 4 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 8 oz cream cheese (reduced fat is ok)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (reduced fat is ok)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp almond extract
  • Fruit of choice

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a food processor, combine almonds, vanilla wafers, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and salt until a coarse meal forms.  Add butter and pulse until combined.  Press crust onto the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of a springform pan or tart pan with a removable bottom.  Bake for 10 minutes to set the crust.

Meanwhile, wipe out the food processor and add cream cheese, sour cream, egg, almond extract, and 1/4 cup of sugar.  Process to combine, then pour custard into hot crust.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Chill thoroughly.  Decorate with concentric circles of fruit (toss with remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar if desired).


Whole foods diet, mostly

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:42 pm

What the heck did we eat last week?  I’m almost sure we ate something…

I’m having a hard time remembering the beginning of the week.  On Thursday I kicked off an attempt to eat no processed food.  This means no pasta, no bread, no white rice, no packaged crap—basically all those foods that taste good but don’t offer much for nutrition.  I’ve done pretty well with it.  I fell off the wagon both Saturday and Sunday evenings, but overall I definitely have less junk in my diet.  I’ve been eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts/seeds, meats, and some very dark chocolate with no dairy and not much sugar.

Monday and Tuesday are a distant blur.

Wednesday: We went out.  It’s very annoying when you’re trying to eat dinner and trick-or-treaters keep interrupting.  Besides, we were already downtown because Miles wanted to trick-or-treat in Denny’s office.

Thursday: Steaks, sweet potatoes, and steamed broccoli.

Friday:  Rotisserie chicken (pre-rotissed), roasted red potatoes, and apples.

Tonight Denny grilled chicken, and I served it with baked beans (not totally unprocessed, but I got organic ones) and really good roasted broccoli the Internet told me about.

Tomorrow night will either be vegetable beef soup or some sort of crock pot pork situation.  I have lots of fruits and vegetables to go with it.

For Wednesday night I am very, very tentatively planning a post-election celebration dinner of linguine carbonara.  That is about a million miles away from my whole foods diet, but you’ve gotta live 80/20, man.  If my guy loses, I will be too busy crying to eat anything anyway.


Love and marriage

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:34 pm

Miles has been talking a lot lately about being boyfriend/girlfriend and marriage.

M: Sometimes it’s a husband and husband or wife and wife.

A: That’s true. Jane and Linda across the street are wife and wife.

M: I thought they weren’t married.

A: No, I’m pretty sure they are.

M: But WHY wasn’t I THERE??

Poor dude loves a wedding and was so mad that he missed that one.

Shortly after…

M:  When you and Daddy were boyfriend and girlfriend, you dated?

A:  Yes.

M:  What did you do?

A:  Well, we went out to dinner, like to the Lincoln Café.  We went to movies…

M:  When you and I date, I want to go to movies, because I love movies.

Powered by WordPress