Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Spinach Goatee Series


The Brando


The Actual Goat


The Jolly Deniro


The Evil Twin


The Colicchio

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Two for two...

...from the new recipe book. Last night's beef stroganoff was another winner.

Ingredients
  • beef (whatever you've got...I used some frozen chuck short ribs)
  • half an onion, chopped
  • minced/crushed garlic (1 tsp, or however much is left in the jar, if you use that sort of thing, which you definitely should because it's so much easier than mincing by hand)
  • cream of mushroom soup (1 can)
  • 1 beef boullion cube
  • 1 handful fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • soy sauce (~2 tbsp, give or take)
  • salt & pepper (though I just used lemon pepper, no salt...figured the soy sauce was salty enough)
  • cream cheese (one 8 oz block - I used neufchatel cheese)
  • wide noodles of some sort

Preparation
1. Put the beef in the crock pot. Smear on the garlic, grind some lemon pepper over everything, turning a few times to nicely coat the meat.
2. Pour in the soy sauce.
3. Toss everything else in the pot except the cheese & the noodles. (If you're not using condensed soup, add an extra cup of water.) Cook for 6-8 hours.
4. About an hour before it's done, cut the cream cheese into cubes and add it to the pot. Stir to mix it in well.
5. Cook the noodles separately when you're ready to eat. Spoon the beefy deliciousness over the top & enjoy.

The ribbon's the best part



mister's first christmas
(see scrooge there in the background?)
was merry indeed

Monday, December 29, 2008

Chicken corn chowder, for the win

Knowing of my newfound zeal for crock pottery, both Tom & Yaya gave me slow cooker recipe books for Christmas. Last night I modified a recipe from one of the books to make a fantastically delicious chicken corn chowder for dinner.

Ingredients
  • butter (1 tbsp)
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped
  • flour (2 tbsp)
  • broth (2.5 cups)
  • creamed corn (1 can)
  • misc vegetables - carrots, corn, green beans (1/2 bag, frozen)
  • frozen chicken thighs (several)
  • hot sauce (1-2 tsp)
  • shredded sharp cheddar cheese (2-3 handfuls)


Preparations
1. In a skillet, melt the butter & saute the onions. When the onions are soft, add the flour, stir well to coat.
2. Add the broth & stir until it starts to thicken. (I added a few heaping spoonfuls of sour cream at this point kind of on a whim, but I think the temperature was too high because it kind of curded up a little...I'd recommend skipping on the sour cream or maybe mixing it in later, but I don't think it really added anything to the recipe.)
3. Pour broth + onions into the crockpot. Add everything else except the cheese. Stir & cook for 4 hours.
4. About 30-60 minutes before it's done, add in the cheese & stir to mix well.

Not only was the soup delicious and slightly spicy, it was just the right amount for the two of us to eat for dinner without having half a pot of leftovers...a first in my crock potting experience! This is definitely one I'll make again.

Later today I'm going to attempt a beef stroganoff. Will let you know how that turns out.

Even more teeth!

Soren seems to be sprouting several more teeth again, all at once after a few weeks off. It looks/feels like there might be three coming in on the top, and possibly one on the bottom. We're trying to be good about remembering to brush the ones he's got so far; I keep forgetting, but Tom's been pretty on top of it. Soren doesn't seem to mind the brushing, fortunately (not that I expected otherwise of the little "everything goes in my mouth all the time" weasel).

Even though he's not using his teeth for eating yet, he's been continuing to broaden his palate, as it were. Recent additions to the pureed food smorgasbord: green beans, brussels sprouts, rice gruel, yogurt-y spinach, pearsauce, yams and cantaloupe. He still loves butternut squash and sweet potatoes. In fact, aside from the peas (which we'll try again soon) he's done really well with everything we've given him to eat. Such a good little lad!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Update &cetera

Well, the wee sir seemed to enjoy his first Christmas. He had a grand old time pulling out - and thoroughly tasting - each of the toys in his stocking. He got some fun things that play music and make interesting noises, and he's been happily playing with those. Always a winner, though, are the very simple things such as paper and ribbons. Boy's more like a cat every day, I've been saying. ;)

I used a new dough recipe this year when it came time to make the Christmas calzones. It was a much softer, less mouth-cutty crust than I've made in years past, and I was very pleased with the final result! I think part of the trick might be letting the yeast sit in the hot water/sugar mixture long enough to get a little foamy, and then starting to add the flour.

Short version (for those who don't want to click the link):
1. In a large bowl, combine 1 packet of yeast with 1 cup of hot (110 degrees F) water and a pinch of sugar. Let the mixture sit until it starts to foam a little (about 5 minutes).
2. Add 1.5 teaspoons of salt, 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil, and 1.5 cups of flour. (I also add a little garlic powder & onion powder.) Mix well.
3. Add another cup of flour, or slightly more if necessary until the dough is just slightly sticky to the touch.
4. Transfer to a floured board, and knead for 5 - 7 minutes, adding additional flour if needed. Dough should be soft & elastic, but no longer sticky.
5. Put the dough back into a lightly-oiled bowl, turn to coat with oil, cover the bowl with a damp towel, and set it someplace warm to rise for an hour.
6. For calzones, divide the dough into four balls, and let them sit for 15 minutes before rolling them out & filling them with delicious calzone fillings. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes at 475 degrees and rock on with your bad calzone-eating self.

In other culinary news, I have been waging a battle with cornbread. I can make a delicious batch of cornbread from one of the cornbread mix packets you can buy at the store, but lately I've been trying to make it from scratch (since we seem to have come into an obscenely large stash of cornmeal). It's been tougher to replicate the ready-mix stuff than I expected. The first batch came out super dry and super dense, more like cornbrick than cornbread. The second batch was fluffy and moist but didn't really taste like anything. I'm beginning to think the cornmeal I used isn't very good. I'll use another of our many bags in the next batch and see how that goes.

Tonight I'm back to work, but only for 3 more nights. Yee-hee!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Going for a stroll



strolling with his dad
one-handed and steady like
he's some kind of pro

Monday, December 22, 2008

Vampire No More

Well, vampire not much longer, anyway.

When the morning comes, and my boss arrives to work for the day, I will be handing him my official two-week notice. That snub at the Christmas party was just too much, and I will not stand for that kind of treatment any longer!

Hehe. I kid. But only about the second part.

Tom's dream job starts at the end of March - it's official! - and he's got a thesis to write and defend in the meantime, which will be a whole lot easier if he doesn't have to also be Mr. Mom at night all by himself. I cannot express how much I am looking forward to really sleeping again. Every night! For like, hours and hours at a stretch! Heavenly.

Never mind the fact that there's this huge cross-country move to plan. That's right, D.C. denizens, we are soon to be among your number. Specifically, we'll be settling in Northern Virginia. (Bethany, prepare yourself for the potential barrage of questions that may be fired in your direction!) It's all very new and exciting and a little scary (but much more exciting than scary), and I'm pretty stoked to start this next phase of our lives. I've never been to D.C. and ohmyfreakinggawd am I jazzed about being so close to the Smithsonian and the Newseum and the Library of Congress and the International Spy Museum...just to name a few! And once I've had a little time off to be Mommy 24/7, I will be in a prime location to actually use my Masters degree when I'm ready to go back to work. Doesn't get much better than that, folks.

So 2009 will dawn bright and clear and vampire shift-free, and I couldn't be more pleased. Happy New Year, indeed!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Festive Tights

So, today was the company holiday party for the place where I work. Last year I was all excited about being able to bring Tom along and introduce him to everyone. Then I found out they hold the parties in the middle of the day on a Friday, and I was appropriately bummed because he probably wouldn't be able to go in that case.

"Um, you know spouses aren't allowed anyway, right?"
"What?! No, I did not know that. How stupid. What kind of company Christmas party doesn't let you bring your spouse? I thought that was kind of the point."

Au contraire, mis amigos. The story goes, many years ago, the parties were your standard evening events, complete with booze aplenty (or at least, booze enough). However, after too many incidents involving employees' spouses being drunkenly informed of various workplace dalliances, and the ensuing drunken fistfights - "too many" meaning "more than one or two," which seems just absurd...seriously, people, keep it in your freaking pants for god's sake - the new party arrangements were adopted. Middle of the day, employees only, no alcohol. (It's also possible they just decided it had gotten too expensive to feed everyone AND their families, and the claim is that the dusty, way too hot company picnic at the weird dirt ranch in Chatsworth serves the "everyone meet everyone" function. But I digress.)

Anyway, the point is, the holiday party is for employees only. However, as it's held in a hotel ballroom in the middle of the day, I could really only go if I brought Soren along, but I figured it wouldn't be a huge deal. I mean, he's not really mobile yet, so it's not as though he'll run around bothering people. He wouldn't take up an extra chair, not if he's sitting in my lap or being passed around among all the people who want to meet him. He's certainly not going to eat any of the food. Where's the harm? Surely if I just show up with him strapped to my front they will see reason. What are they going to do, turn me away, after I've gotten all dressed up and driven all the way over there?

Alas, that is exactly what they did.

Did I mention the dress code? I didn't. There's a dress code for this party. I had to wear a dress. And since it's been kind of chilly lately, I thought I'd go for tights instead of nylons, since they're a bit thicker. I went to Target and picked out a nice outfit for the boy (since his "fancy clothes" were all in the hamper from earlier this week) and got myself some plain black tights to go with my black dress and black boots. And then I thought about it some more and decided that was kind of a lot of black; I couldn't see any reason not to embrace the holiday season and get myself some festive tights. I still got the black ones, in case I wimped out at the last minute, but I also snagged myself some red ones with silver snowflakes on them. Festive with a capital F, people. So with Soren in his adorable little corduroys and collared plaid shirt and green sweater vest with a train on it, and I in my dress and boots and festive tights, off we went to the Christmas party.

And we were promptly turned away. Well, the first lady tried to turn me away when I went to pick up my name tag and raffle ticket, and then I appealed to a nicer HR lady who said of course Soren could come in, and here is your stuff, and have a lovely time. And then the nicer HR lady's boss (I think he's her boss) let me get about five steps into the ballroom before escorting me right back out.

"Blah blah, precedent, mur mur mur, rules are rules, blabbedy bloo, I'm a big fat meanie head."

(I may have paraphrased that last bit.)

Well fine. I stood outside the door to the ballroom and got my friend M to go in and fetch the people in my department so they could see Soren. I hung out around there for a little while, visiting and taking pictures with people, playing pass the baby. All the same things I would have done had I been allowed inside, with the exception of eating food. (The big fat meanie head offered to have the kitchen make me a plate of food, but I saw very little point in sitting there outside, hunched pathetically over my plate, so I took my festive tights and my son elsewhere.) We got some lunch at a restaurant nearby and then met up with Gram Gram for some pie, since she lives just down the street from where the party was being held. Soren charmed everyone in sight, as usual, behaving like a little angel despite being hauled about for most of the afternoon. We had a lovely visit with Gram Gram, whose necklace Soren found utterly irresistible. And then he slept in the car all the way home.

All's well that ends well, I suppose.

Edited to add:

Here they are. Festive!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Everything I Own

This seemed like kind of an interesting thing to do. We'll see.

1. Put your iPod (or media player) on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER HOW SILLY IT SOUNDS!

Here goes.

IF SOMEONE SAYS "IS THIS OKAY" YOU SAY?
Honky Tonk Woman (Rolling Stones) -- I just may use this as a standard Captain Random response from now on.

WHAT WOULD BEST DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONALITY?
Sexy Plexi (Jack Johnson) -- Why thank you.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GUY/GIRL?
David Duchovny (Bree Sharp) -- Haha! Umm...no comment.

HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY?
What I Got (Sublime) -- Could go with band name here instead? 'Cause that doesn't make much sense.

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE'S PURPOSE?
Here Comes the Sun (Nick Cave) -- More like here comes the son...

WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO?
Get Over It (OK Go) -- Pretty good motto!

WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK OF YOU?
Ordinary (Face to Face) -- Aw :(

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT VERY OFTEN?
Red Room (Jude) -- Not really, but I do get the song Red Red Wine stuck in my head periodically.

WHAT IS 2+2?
The Good Life (Weezer) -- Totally.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR BEST FRIEND?
Walk On Me (Ben Kweller) -- Not true! No!

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
American Girl (Ween) -- Er. Let's just use that one for someone I like platonically, shall we? ;)

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY?
Mrs. Robinson (Me First & the Gimme Gimmes) -- Totally not.

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?
Ain't Loved At All (Jack Johnson) -- Stop lying, mp3 player!

WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SEE THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
No More Shall We Part (Nick Cave) -- Finally, something true (even if the song is totally creepy)

WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU?
Fly Like An Eagle (Steve Miller Band) -- Okay, I can go with that one.

WHAT WILL YOU DANCE TO AT YOUR WEDDING?
Sha Sha (Ben Kweller) -- This may actually have been on our wedding playlist.

WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL?
I Am A Rock (Simon & Garfunkle) -- Sure...but I like the Me First & Gimme Gimmes version better.

WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY/INTEREST?
The Joker (Steve Miller Band) -- I do like jokes...

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SECRET?
California Dreaming (Me First & the Gimme Gimmes) -- Ha! Couldn't be further from the truth.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS?
Ride (Liz Phair) -- I have my own car, thanks very much. You're more than just wheels to me, my friends!

WHAT'S THE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN?
Fire & Rain (Me First & the Gimme Gimmes) -- That could be pretty bad.

HOW WILL YOU DIE?
Skills to Pay the Bills (Beastie Boys) -- I will apparently die in some sort of rap battle.

WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU REGRET?
OK Nightmare (Caviar) -- Sure, I guess any regrets could be classified as nightmares in some sense.

WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH?
Allison (Elvis Costello) -- I don't actually know any Allisons. Possibly I will meet a funny one?

WHAT MAKES YOU CRY?
Soba Violence (Beastie Boys) -- *sniff* Be nice to the noodles!

WILL YOU EVER GET MARRIED?
Caress Me Down (Sublime) -- I guess that's a yes?

WHAT SCARES YOU THE MOST?
Bad News (Jack Johnson) -- Definitely scary!

DOES ANYONE LIKE YOU?
Falling For You (Weezer) -- Keep on falling, baby. ;)

IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?
Cecilia (Simon & Garfunkel) -- Totally. Forget that chick. Or something.

WHAT HURTS RIGHT NOW?
Fallen (Bree Sharp) -- My back does kind of feel like I've fallen down recently.

WHAT WILL YOU POST THIS AS?
Everything I Own (Jude)


Okay, so that was kind of hit & miss. Oh well. Good enough for moderate temporary amusement.

Games with Dad



there never was a
smilier pair than these two
playing on the floor

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Balancing Acts

Soren's starting to learn how to stand on his own, without holding on to anything for support. He'll pull himself up on something, let go, and hover there for a second or two before plopping down again. I let him practice on the bed a lot, since the plopping is softer there. Every so often he manages to steady himself and stand for a good 5 or 6 seconds, usually with his feet braced wide apart. It's quite impressive!

I'm still managing, for the most part, to balance work and sleep and mothering. There are rough days, of course. Tuesday I got home in the morning, and no sooner had my head hit the pillow than the wee sir was standing up in his crib, babbling away at me, ready to start the day. He has a little glow seahorse that plays music, which manages to entertain him fairly well. I was able to sleep for as long as the music would go (about 5 minutes) before he'd start yammering again. Squeeze the seahorse, start the music, drift back off, wake up, squeeze the seahorse, etc. Eventually he drank the remainder of his night bottle and passed back out for about 45 minutes, but thereafter, it was naught but 10 and 20 minute naps for me over the course of the day.

I didn't go to work that night. The rest of the week has been somewhat better, sleep-wise. (Thank goodness.)

I've started an online class again, since I didn't have enough going on, I guess. ;) When I was working on my Masters, there weren't any classes available that dealt specifically with firearms examination, which is the area of forensics that particularly interests me. A week or so ago, I found a couple of online classes through West Virginia University's extension program - Introduction to Firearms & Toolmark Investigation and an IBIS course (Integrated Ballistics Identification System...like the fingerprint database only for bullets) - so I signed myself up for one. I'm taking the intro course now. It's intended as a continuing education type class for people already working in the field of forensics, but I figure whatever I can do to make myself a more attractive eventual candidate will be worth the effort, especially if I want to take a couple of years off to be Mom full-time once Tom graduates. I'll get a nice certificate of completion when I'm done...another thing to add to the resume. (I'll take the IBIS class as well, just a little later.)

So that's pretty cool.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Jealous



his new moose jammies
are so fleecy and cozy
I want some for me

Monday, December 08, 2008

Eight Months Old

  • He is a speed-crawler these days, with a habit of streaking toward the bathroom whenever we've left the door open.
  • He is also a very capable cruiser, making his way from the TV stand to the coffee table to the couch with almost no trouble.
  • He has three teeth, with a fourth on the way!
  • He can stand unsupported for a second or two at a time. Last night he crawled over to where I was standing, pulled himself up by my pantlegs, and reached his arms up toward me! I snagged him just before he would have fallen.
  • He does a pretty respectable pteradactyl impersonation.
  • He loves being chased by Tom in crawl-races through the living room. Giggles and grins like his face is going to split in twain.
  • He has tried many solid (well, mushy) foods now. Favorites include butternut squash, carrots, and avocado. He is not a fan of peas or (so far) chicken (though Tom mixed the chicken with some sweet potatoes and he seemed to tolerate that all right). Going to start trying finger foods soon!
  • He weighs upwards of 20 pounds and wears 12m size clothes. (Some 9m shirts & pants fit him, but the onesies are all too short now.)
  • His smile for me in the morning and for his dad in the evening is the brightest, most heart-melting thing I've seen in my entire life.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Waxing Nostalgic Again

Sometimes I miss playing in a band. I don't mean a rock band or even a garage band; I am nowhere near cool enough for that. ;) No, I'm talking high school band, wherein FarmerMeg & I were the badasses of the flute section. (Not to brag, but we totally were.) Pep band was fun, though we froze our fingers off at the football games. Marching band was also fun, though we sweated our way through long hours of parade practice. What I'm missing most right now though is plain old symphonic band, with everyone working together to create something beautiful.

Probably I have kind of a skewed perspective, ten years on. I know there was plenty of frustration, as well as tons of repetition, trying to get everyone to care enough to concentrate and pull it all together. I remember a couple of concerts where it was obvious we didn't really have a particular piece down and probably had no business subjecting our audience (i.e. devoted parents) to it; I remember being embarrassed about that. But by & large my memories are fond. The satisfaction of finally bringing all the musical components together, knowing we rocked the hell out of a tricky piece of music, was totally worth all the rest of it.

Tuesday I was making my way through the special features for the second X-Files movie, and of course there was a part about recording the film's score. Mark Snow, the composer, was leading the orchestra through a piece of rather moving background music while the movie flickered along on the recording studio wall. What a freaking cool job that must be. Stressful as hell for sure, what with the long hours and yet limited amount of time to perfect each piece of music, but so cool. Even in my heyday, when I was a pretty respectable floutist if I do say so myself, I was nowhere near good enough to be in an orchestra of that caliber. But if I were better, I could see myself wanting that job. Not necessarily to make a career out of it, but just to say, I was part of a film score orchestra once.

Maybe someday I'll get my fluting chops back, find a community orchestra to join. It would be fun to be part of a band again. I'll just tack that on to my wish list, along with finding a way to ride horses regularly again, getting back on my snowboard, and re-learning the bagpipes.

(Unrelated to my band nostalgia but a cool part of the movie special features, there was a separate recording session with a smaller "effects" orchestra, capturing crashes and splats and the like. This pianist was creating some incredible distortions of his instrument by laying silly putty across the strings or slipping coins between them. Sounded like a synthesizer, but it was a standard grand piano. I had no idea you could make a piano sound like that. Super cool.)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Another one?

Soren is just popping out those teeth, all rapid fire style. Got his first one, then 6 days later got his second one (both lower central incisors) and just yesterday - 8 days after the second one - I noticed a third tooth emerging! This time it's an upper, the right central incisor. From the look of his gums, the left one isn't far behind. So, very soon, the little scraeling will have a matched set of uppers and lowers, all the better to nibble with.

Huzzah.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Too much


little teddy bear
could you be any cuter?
methinks there's no way

Monday, December 01, 2008

Weekend wrapup

Thanksgiving foods - Delicious!
Family visiting - Splendid!
Turkey hats - Crazy!
Beavs lost - Boo!
FedEx can't find Tom's bday present - Double boo!
Soren - Popular!
Sleep - Somewhat plentiful!
Weather - Cool!
New telephoto lens - Yay!
Back to work - Lame!

The weekends, however long they may be, are never long enough. I'll work on getting photos updated and all that later today. I also need to go play with the sweet telephoto lens my dad brought down for me. Plus, there's a wee lad who requires attention and games.

Sorry so lame. More soon.