28 March 2008

friday photos: rockband edition

Well, we did it: we bought Rock Band, one of my favorite video games ever. We spent more on this game than on a week's worth of groceries, but who needs to eat when you can simulate rocking out on overpriced plastic instruments?

But Greg and I love it, the kids love it, and I love exposing the boys to a variety of rock music. More equals better, when it comes to music. Also, it encourages family togetherness! What's not to love?


20 March 2008

more food talk, and a vacation

First order of business: Several people asked how the Guinness Corned Beef turned out, and I can happily recommend it, with the caveat that you make sure to choose a beer you really like, because it will rather taste like beer. But not overwhelmingly so -- our kids ate it with no complaint. I served it with this Irish Champ (I tried to convince the kiddos that the green onions were delicious Irish confetti, to no avail) and cooked up some carrots and cabbage with the beef, and it was most delicious with the beefy-beery sauce spooned over everything. A pretty satisfactory St. Patrick's day dinner, overall.

Second: While I'm on the subject of food, I have to also enthusiastically recommend these homemade granola bars. I lightened up on the brown sugar and honey, and used a mixture of craisins and mini chocolate chips in place of the raisins, and they're maybe my favorite snack ever.

Third: I'm leaving tonight for a visit with my sister and her family, just as Greg is getting over an illness and James is coming down with one. I almost feel bad about leaving them in their various states of ill health, but then I ask Evan to put some books away and he suddenly loses all the bones in his legs and the screaming starts and I remember that OH MY GOD am I ready for a vacation. Yes, my vacation will be with small children, but they are not my small children, and I'm not the person primarily responsible for them. So I'm loading up my mp3 player with good music (music with swear words, even!) and happily anticipating all the quiet time I'll have to read in the airport and on the plane, and I don't feel that badly anymore.

There's one thing I'm sorry about missing this weekend. Not anything Easter-related, oh no. Due to Greg's competent electronic repair skills, we recently acquired an XBox 360, and there is a tentative plan to purchase Rock Band this weekend. Now there's something I'll be glad to come home to. Oh, I suspect I'll miss my boys after a couple of days, and may even want to see them more than I'll want to be playing Rock Band, but at the moment I'm really looking forward to loving them from a distance.


17 March 2008

irish for the day

Today is St. Patrick's Day, of course, and because I have a tiny percentage of Irish heritage somewhere waaaay back in my ancestry, and because I like Irish music, and the color green, I have always liked this holiday. I don't know a thing about Saint Patrick, and my idea of Irish music is to put on the Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly, but it still makes for a fun holiday.

I'm always a little iffy on the food, though. I'm okay with having the traditional corned beef once a year, but that this big hunk of meat is traditionally boiled has always grossed me out a little bit. I've cooked it this way time and time again, and enjoyed eating it, but always with a little shiver of revulsion at the fact that I'm eating boiled meat. I don't know why, but something about boiled meat just rubs me the wrong way.

But yesterday I stumbled across this recipe for Guinness corned beef, which is actually cooked in the oven! I decided to do mine in the crockpot, and we didn't have any Guinness around, but I substituted the stoutest beer we had in the fridge, and right now every time I take the lid off of the crockpot I am assaulted by the scnet of hot beer and I kind of want to vomit. But, I was unsure about the crazy Voodoo Cake I made yesterday, and that turned out to be surprisingly wonderful, and very rich, so I'm hoping I'll be surprised by this strange beef as well.

After our massive beef ingestion tonight, we'll be returning to our newly acquired state of semi-vegetarianism. And I swear I'm not turning my blog into a food blog, but that's all I can think of to write about lately. Just wait, next week after I return from visiting my sister, this blog will be plastered in photos of my new nephew. Strange foods and new babies, two of my favorite things.


16 March 2008

expressions of love

I was going to do a weekend recipe this weekend, really I was, but then I got too busy cooking. You see, last Wednesday was Greg's birthday, and for the people I love (read: the people I live with who have no option to refuse), I bake birthday cakes. And for my lovely boyfriend, I will spend most of the afternoon making a cake full of questionable flavor combinations, dirtying just about every dish in the kitchen, because I love him, and baking is one of my favorite ways to express my love.

Sometime last week, Greg was making popcorn and hunting in the spice cabinet for something to put on it when he spied a jar of molasses. I hadn't realized until that moment how much Greg loves molasses, until he suggested putting it on our popcorn. Then he started rhapsodizing about his ideal popcorn toppings, which included flavors like molasses and mocha and caramel. Needless to say, I shot this train of thought down pretty much immediately, because unless popcorn is covered in butter or chocolate, I won't eat it. But he did give me something to think about.

Later on, I put "molasses mocha caramel cake" into Google and came up with a recipe for Chocolate Voodoo Cake. After looking it over and seriously underestimating the time and effort involved, I decided to make it for Greg's birthday cake.

I started the cake process at 3:30 this afternoon. Now it's around 8:30pm and we've got another 45 minutes of refrigeration until the glaze is set and the cake is ready to be poked with our voodoo needles. In the interest of saving time, I didn't bother to shape the cake, thinking I could mask any lopsidedness with the mousse and/or the glaze. This, of course, didn't work at all, so we've got a very misshapen little cake. And we tried, we really tried with those stupid chocolate caramel voodoo needles, but ours are all blobby, and either too fat or too thin.

Still, I tasted every bit of batter over every step of the way, and I'm convinced that though it is a really strange combination of things, it will taste good even if it's not pretty. And trust me, it's not pretty.

So happy belated birthday, honey. There aren't many people who I'd deem worthy of almost six hours (non-continuous, but still!) of my labor, just for a birthday cake, but you're one of 'em. I just hope this cake is worth it.


14 March 2008

friday video

We've been encouraging Evan to work on his "L" sounds. Sometimes he's cooperative, sometimes he's indifferent, and sometimes, as this video shows, he's a little comedian. My favorite part is the way he just cracks himself up.


11 March 2008

otherwise occupied

Greg has been out of town since Saturday morning, and we've been trying to keep busy in his absence. We've had friends over to keep us company, we've baked, we've watched a movie, we've played with Play-doh and we've played outdoors, thanks to a healthy snowfall and a few sunny days. The kids were enchanted with The Never-Ending Story and spent a surprising amount of time crafting creatures from the movie out of Play-doh. James invented a version of chess involving Lego blocks, which, true to form, sounds convoluted and unnecessarily complicated. But imaginative, to be sure.

But most of our time has been spent in two ways. The boys have decided that all of their stuffed animals are various Pokemon -- I'm pleased that for the first time in either of their short lives, they are acknowledging the fact that they have several dozen stuffed animals in their bedroom, and that some of these animals are being played with for the first time ever! -- so they are spending hours on Pokemon games. The best part is that these games keep them occupied in their bedroom.

And me? In Greg's absence, I've fallen in love with a serial killer. Er, a fictional serial killer, that is, by the name of Dexter. The last thing I need is to be addicted to yet another TV show, but I can't help myself! The murderer with a heart of gold is just so charming. When you're spending several nights in a row by yourself, with high-speed internet and all kinds of shows freely available for viewing or download, it's more fun than reading a book, or doing housework, or going to bed early.

You can tell things are pretty boring in my life right now when I write an enthusiastic post about Pokemon and television, but I was feeling neglectful of the blog, so this is what you get for now.


06 March 2008

random happiness

I've been kind of cranky lately, so I thought I'd write a post on some of the good things that have happened this week, however small, to try and get myself out of this funk a little bit.

  • Finally, for the first time ever, I made really good homemade hummus. And I think I owe it all to getting a new food processor. There was nothing wrong with the old one, really, it just wasn't cutting it in the hummus department texture-wise. But the new one? Perfect. (Kitchen successes or failures can really make or break my day, sometimes.
  • I got a package from a friend today: a copy of the film Once (which I've been wanting to see for quite some time) and its soundtrack. Those, along with the copy of The Fountain that's waiting for me to pick it up at the library, should give me something to do when Greg is out of town next week.
  • I made these cookies today, and they are good. Reeeaaaally good. I was having issues with them at first -- they were sticking to the pan and crumbling all over the place -- but I did manage to get enough whole, undamaged cookies to make it worthwhile. And they're good. Reeeaaaally good.
  • I don't want to jinx myself or anything, but Evan is maybe, possibly starting to consider becoming a little bit interested in the potty. He had this weird skin problem going on, so we let him go diaperless on a few different days, and he used his little potty every time he had to go. Every time. As the parent of a toddler, sometimes I don't ask for much more out of life than this.

Okay, thats all I've got for now.


04 March 2008

so i guess he's not gay

James: Excuse me.
Me: Yes, James?
James: I have a crush on girls.
Greg: What girls? All girls?
James: Yeah.
Me: What do you think that means, to have a crush?
James: That you really, really like some one.
Me: Oh. So you don't like boys, then?
James: I do like boys, butI don't have a crush on them. I have a crush on girls.

I wonder if the fact that he wants to be Cinderella for Halloween will help or hurt his chances with all those girls he's crushing on?


03 March 2008

9 seconds

Nine seconds is all it takes to capture the essence of my children's personalities on video:

Both children: full of energy
James: oblivious to his surroundings
Evan: alternately cheerful and aggressive

Okay, so it's not a complete picture of my children's personalities, but I thought those nine seconds illustrated very concisely some of the more prominent character traits of each of the boys.


02 March 2008

weekend recipe: chunky vegetable stew

This week's recipe comes from (I think) Vegetarian Times magazine, from where I get a lot of awesome recipes. It's pretty basic, and easily tweakable, and, of course, delicious. Like the last recipe I posted (I originally wrote "last week's recipe" before checking and realizing that it's been three weeks since I posted a recipe -- oops!), it's one you can leave simmering on the stove for as long as you need to, and it's great for cold weather. I give you:

Chunky Vegetable Stew

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, thickly sliced (though I usually chop, because I don't like huge chunks in my stew)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (14.5 ounces) stewed tomatoes, undrained (I usually use a can of onion-and-garlic-flavored diced tomatoes)
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (same thing as chickpeas, and I use 1 can, drained and rinsed)
2 sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into 2" chunks
3/4 tsp crushed rosemary (I don't know if the original recipe intended for fresh or dried, but I always use dried)
1 zucchini, sliced (I'm convinced spinach would be a good substitute for the zucchini, though Greg has never let me try that variation)
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium hear. Add onion; separate slices. Cook 5 minutes or until onions are soft. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.

Add tomatoes with juice, beans, yams, and rosemary. (You will want to add more liquid, because it will look like there's barely any in there, but trust me, it's not necessary. It won't hurt, but you don't need to.) Bring to a boil (it's a bit hard to tell because of the low amount of liquid, but you'll figure it out); reduce heat to low and simmer, covered.

Here you have a couple of options. Back in our meat-eating days, we added sliced kielbasa (around 1 pound, I think) at this point, which adds a ton of flavor. Whether or not you're adding meat, you will decide at this point how thick and mushy you like your stew. We like to let this simmer for a couple of hours, turning the yams into a nice pasty base for the rest of the soup. If that doesn't sound good to you, then move along to the last bit.

Add the zucchini about 15-20 minutes before you're ready to serve the stew. Otherwise your zucchini will get mushy along with your yams, and mushy zucchini is not a good thing. Let your stew simmer until everything is as soft as you'd like it, then stir in some salt and pepper (I like a lot of salt in this, especially without meat) and sprinkle with Parmesan (fresh or not; we usually don't keep fresh around but the powdery stuff is fine) before serving.