Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A birthday letter

Dear Lance,

You have one week and one day until my birthday. It's time to start panicking. Because both you and I know that you haven't planned one darned thing yet.

This is the start to what I like to call my year of glory. Meaning, this is my 29th birthday. 30 is going to be rough as I have ordained 30 as the time period where I better have my life together. So honey, let's make the start of this year a good one!


Your patient wife

PS: in true keeping of this blog, here are a few friendly hints as to how you can start off my year of glory.

1. A breakfast sandwich & orange juice in bed (actually, not in bed. I've lectured you several times that food cannot be consumed in bed, this is after I caught you trying to eat a CRUMBLY cookie in bed. But breakfast made for me when I get up would be excellent.)

2. Here is the link to the photo art I would like for my birthday. You'll need to get it framed, I suggest Michaels and use a framing coupon from the Sunday paper. If you feel like going above and beyond - hanging it in the space above the pantry would be ideal. And if you were really trying for husband of the year, you could hang the framed and matted family pictures that's been suffering in limbo for the last 3 months because you won't let me hang anything with your permission.

Add Image

3. Then, in keeping with AWESOME husband-ness, dinner reservations ON MY BIRTHDAY and a babysitter. And no complaining about work.

4. Bonus points if you buy me these Toms. I really don't expect you to based on New Year's Resolution #3 ... but I promise to be completely surprised if you do. Size 7, please and thank you :)

5. And lastly, if you wanted to spend NOTHING on my birthday, but still wanted to give me a gift: you could iron everything that's hanging on the downstairs rack. That would probably make you the coolest husband ever. I hate ironing.

Monday, February 27, 2012

I knew I was going to be a literary foodie

At a young age, I was destined to be a foodie. (Completely disregard the fact that I was a horribly picky eater, refusing to eat any pizza besides cheese pizza, turning my nose up at all beef products, and was convinced that drinking water would probably result in a sudden and painful poisoning. Truth be told, I'm not sure how my mom and dad put up with my antics)

But anyway, I was predisposed to be a lover of food. Just not in my early years. My favorite children's book, as a kidlet, was the classic Tawny, Scrawny Lion.

The idea behind the story is that the lion was always hungry because he would always have to chase down animals for his meals. The camels, bears, elephants, and zebras that were the lion's dinner, sneakily asked the cute little bunny rabbit to try and convince the lion to stop eating the big animals for supper. The rabbit makes the lion carrot soup and then the lion is no longer hungry because he has delicious carrot soup to eat!

I used to wander around my backyard with a bucket, gathering rocks, leaves and berries in an effort to recreate the rabbits' "carrot soup." I also vividly recall forcing my little neighbor friends to play this game with me. What can I say, I've always been a bit bossy :)

When I started reading longer chapter books, my favorite foodie book was Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy. My parents can attest, I couldn't read this book without first having to find a snack. Those pioneer farmers, man, did they eat good! Things like baked potatoes roasted in bonfire ashes ... freshly churned butter ... pies. Dear me. I should also note that in one of the other Little House on the Prairie books she mentions making candy using maple syrup and snow. I can't tell you how many times I made a mess in the yard, trying to make candy this same way.

This was a book I read in 4th grade. This book, in hindsight, is totally implausible. I mean really, how many parents do you know who would consent to letting their child go live completely by himself on the side of a mountain? But I thought this book was soooo cool. The main character carves out the side of tree for his home, teaches a falcon how to hunt, and eats turtle soup! Totally awesome.

And my love for foodie books hasn't stopped. Last year I read and reviewed in this post The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love.

My friend Nicole just lent me French Women Don't Get Fat. It combines recipes with non-diet advice. I'm looking forward to reading through this!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

DIY: Homemade Baby Food

Before I had Lucan, I had decided that I was going to cloth diaper, ban television, teach sign language, never let Lucan sleep in our bed, make all of Lucan’s baby food myself. Like so many of my other preconceived notions about motherhood, things changed once I actually became a parent. Lucan has never had a cloth diaper on this tush (infants poops are appalling!); he gets to watch television on occasion; he has been signed to everyday for 3 months and we have yet to have him sign back to us; and has been allowed to sleep in our bed at times when I’ve tried in vain to get him to back to sleep. But one thing that has stuck is my resolve to make all of Lucan’s baby food.

By making Lucan’s baby food, it has allowed me to be in control of the ingredients and the food combinations. For example, I’ve been fortunate to be able to use herbs, butternut squash & green beans that we grew in our garden last summer. It’s been rewarding to see the fruits of our labor be used in such a worthwhile way. I get to experiment with all sorts of flavor combinations from banana/avocado/pear puree, butternut squash/sweet potato/curry puree to pea/spinach/mint puree. It is my fervent hope that by exposing Lucan at such a young age to a variety of flavors, that we can avoid the food tug-of-war that is commonly associated with toddlerhood.

Making his baby food isn’t difficult, but does require time and some advanced planning. Most of the tools that are needed can be found in any standard kitchen. I use a food steamer that we already had, but an easy solution would be to steam foods in the microwave. With boiling, many of the nutrients are leached into the water which is why my preferred cooking method is either steaming or roasting. I roast root vegetables on a cookie sheet in the oven. When making smaller batches, I use my immersion blender. But because I like to do batch cooking, my food processor is a better choice. Generally I set aside some time a couple times a month to make large batches of baby food. I dice, roast, and steam large quantities at a time. Once everything is sufficiently tender, I puree and portion it into smaller ready-to-eat containers.

Creating my own baby food is a choice that I’ve made for our family. It allows me to provide, with absolute certainty, the best food possible for my little one.

If you would like more information about making your own baby food or would like to buy some baby food, let me know!

What? Do I have something on my face?

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Hunger Games Theatrical Trailer #2

Ridiculously excited. OMG. I originally took Friday, March 23 off so I could go to the midnight showing, but had to rethink when I remembered I'll have a 9-month old who will be up at 6 am regardless of what time I go to bed.
Instead we are doing a March Hunger Games birthday party (I have 5 friends who have March birthdays). We're all going to dress up like different tributes and then try and kill each other off. It should be a good time :) Now to find a babysitter ...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

2012 Resolutions: Reducing Student Loan Debt

We are implementing parts of Dave Ramsey into our lives. I hate this a little bit. But I hate the debt more.

Because of this, we are saying adieu to DirectTV, our land line, eating out except for special occasions, trips, coffee, and random Target wandering/shopping. Lance is selling off a few things and we're pretty serious about selling off the Traverse. We are eating less meat. We are both drinking coffee at work and not making it at home. I shop less. I'm making all of Lucan's baby food (fun to puree things into mush, but a never ending process. Really, he needs to eat less :). I'm contemplating learning how to make our own laundry detergent. Lance is going to sell off some mutual funds. I have spent quite a bit of time reviewing my health insurance plans to best optimize our health needs and premium dollars. I'm all over my Healthcare Flexible Spending Account and my Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account. I've decreased my 401K contribution to only put in what my company will match. I did an AWFUL Justin Beiber promotion so I could justify the expense of 9 month pictures with a professional photographer for Lucan. Will these sacrifices be worth it? They better be because I'm not willing to have to choose between going into further debt or not being able to fulfill Lucan's needs.

Someday Lucan will need braces (side note: given my dental history- I had 4 cavities filled at my last checkup and Lance had 4 cavities filled and an emergency root canal performed last month, therefore Lucan will inevitably have dental issues) and someday Lucan will need swimming lessons so he doesn't end up with a fear of drowning (like Lance). I don't want to have to continually worry how we will pay for these things or have to tell Lucan "no" because there's no money for them. I have a notecard posted at my desk stating that someday Lucan will need swimming lessons to help curb any online shopping.

I will be walking through life going "WWDD?" What Would Dave Do? Basically, Dave would say no. Dave is a fun hater. Lance and I have both observed that people who are doing Dave Ramsey only talk about how much debt they've reduced because that's the only thing they have going on in their lives. It's true. If you are set on reducing your debt, you are probably not taking any wild vacations or eating at the fanciest restaurants in town. You are on a budget. Most people don't find budgets to be very fun.

We just finished a month long series at church about money. It was timely as Lance and I are buckling down on our financial situation. Keeping up with the Jones is just going to keep us broke. Besides, the Jones are in debt. They just appear to be living the good life.

Philippians 4:11-13
For I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be. I know now how to live when things are difficult and I know how to live when things are prosperous. In general and in particular I have learned the secret of eating well or going hungry of facing either plenty of poverty. I am ready for anything through the strength of the One who lives within me.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese

Me oh my, this was good. Really, really, really good. Probably even worth the $6+ of cheese. And the fight in the Fareway parking lot that is referenced in this post.

My friend Mandy once asked me for a recipe for mac & cheese. I had to admit that I didn't have one. I felt a little lame. What kind of food/lifestyle blogger/complainer doesn't have a recipe for mac & cheese? This one. It's probably because making mac & cheese out of a box is so dang easy. This recipe is worth the effort. It's so good. I'm a little hungry just thinking about it. Nicole - you could make it vegetarian by omitting the chicken.

Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound (16 oz) elbow macaroni
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup hot sauce
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 pound (16 oz) yellow sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 1/2 cups)
8 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
2/3 cup sour cream
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (I omitted - way too expensive during the winter in Iowa)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken and garlic and cook 2 minutes. Then add 1/2 cup hot sauce and simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 more minute.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a separate saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and mustard until smooth. Whisk in the half-and-half and add the remaining 1/4 cup hot sauce and stir until thick, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, then whisk in the sour cream until smooth.

Combine the chicken mixture, cooked pasta, and cheese sauce and toss to combine.

Put the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted. Stir in the panko, blue cheese and parsley. Sprinkle over the macaroni and bake until bubbly, 30 to 40 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Best served immediately. Makes around 8 servings.

This recipe was obtained from The Girl Who Ate Everything. She adapted it from a recipe from the Food Network.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lucan: 8 months

I know that I sound like a broken record, but as every month passes, I am more amazed and thankful for Lucan. I'm amazed that we've been parents for 8 months without screwing him up and I'm very thankful for the easy child Lucan is. God is good.

The two biggest changes I've noticed this month is the eruption of 2(!) teeth and his stubbornness when it comes to eating. Lucan got his front two bottom teeth in. This has led to some periodic biting issues while nursing. This also leads me to my second observation: stubbornness when it comes to eating. Lucan prefers solid foods to nursing. I think he would eat food all the live long day if I let him. Which in the long run is good, but in the meantime frustrates me. It's doing crazy things to my milk supply. Lucan will eat 8 ounces of food at lunchtime and would probably eat more 8 ounces at supper too if I let him. Instead I try and limit him to 6 or so ounces at night that way he'll nurse some too.

At 8 months old, here are some observations:

  • Teething has gone pretty smoothly. More drooling than normal, but no further crankiness or temperature spikes.

  • L is still in size 3 diapers.

  • I'm guessing L is getting close to weighing in at 21 lbs. Not fat, but definitely not skinny.

  • People who tell me that Lucan looks more like Lance than me, but then fail to articulate why or how, befuddle me. Basically, I think what they are trying to say is that Lucan doesn't look very Asian. Because Lucan has my eyes, my nose, and my fat baby cheeks. Lucan is very clearly my child.

  • I've nicknamed Lucan - Lu Lu. I think that I like one syllable nick names - Fire is Fie Fi.

  • One of Lucan's favorite pastimes is trying to rip off your face. Which is why I have to be diligent in keeping his nails trimmed.

  • Lucan likes all the foods we've given at him. He has had squash, sweet potato, carrots, peas, avocado, pears, applesauce, bananas, rice cereal and oatmeal. We need to try green beans. But I tasted that puree and thought it tasted bad, so who knows what Lucan will think. I've been making all of our baby food so far and enjoying it. I've been thinking about starting a little side business of making fresh baby food for people. We'll see.

  • Our new daycare is still going really well. Lucan gets more individualized attention and we get a daily report of his activities. There's another little girl there who Lucan likes to chatter with and giggle at. All in all, I'm happy that we made the choice to switch.

  • We did have a bath time first the other day. Lucan pooped in the bathtub (and not a hard pebble poop either) and then after I rescued him from the poop water, he peed all over his nursery wall. Yay Lucan and for little boys.

  • Lucan is still a good sleeper. He will usually take 3, 1-hour naps a day and then will typically sleep through the night. There were a couple of times where he woke up in the middle of the night this past month, but that's not the norm. One thing that has become the norm is finding Lucan completely sideways or at the opposite end of his crib. I'm not sure when this happens because when I go to bed at 11:30 (I know too late, that would account for the eye twitch I've had) he's exactly where I've laid him. I guess Lucan has really active dreams.

  • No signs of being interested in crawling. Why would Lucan want to crawl when he can get basically anywhere by rolling? The only time rolling becomes a problem is with forward motion. Doing a three-point turn by rolling is a lot less direct than simply crawling forward.

  • We're on his second month of sign language and he's not signing back. He does smile happily when we do the signs for "milk,""eat," "food," and "all done." Oh well. It's hard to know what goes on in Lucan's little baby brain.

  • Lucan had his first "official" haircut last week. It went okay, he was squirmy and hot. I took him to my hair person. It will probably be the only time in my life that I pay $5 for an Aveda service! I wouldn't want to cut babies' hair full time. What a nightmare that would be.

  • I read in a parenting book the other day that we should start disciplining Lucan at 9 months old. That broke my heart. I'm not ready to discipline my sweet little baby.

  • Lucan really wants to be friends with Fire. It appears to be unrequited love on Lucan's part.
This was the easiest photo session to date. Lucan is starting to smile reflexively, so this shoot took maybe 3 minutes. BLESSING.

As cute as L is smiling, I think his weird faces are funnier.

Before and after shots of Lucan's haircut. Lucan was adorable in his cape.

And for the Voglers viewing pleasure: Hilton Colleseum after Iowa State's win over Kansas :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Blog? A Waste of Time? Pshaw.

Lance recently told me that my blog was a waste of my time. Please tell Lance that he is a pooper. This argument was had during a heated cell phone conversation in a Fareway parking lot. And I might be partly at fault, but I still maintain that it was a really poopy thing for Lance to say. And now I expect an apology in the form of a comment from Lancer.

The following are reasons why this blog IS NOT a waste of time.

1. My two creative outlets are writing and cooking. Writing on this blog is a whole lot cheaper and less messy than cooking. Granted, it doesn't provide the same filling feeling as food, but I would argue that writing is an emotionally "filling" endeavor.

2. This blog provides a way for friends and family members to keep up on our lives. Lance - both of our parents read this blog and enjoy it!

3. I have had various people ask me for a recipe, so I refer them to this blog. It's an easy way for me recommend (or warn against) certain recipes or ingredients.

4. I overshare. I can't help it. Hence, the blog.

5. Encouragement. I share things we struggle with and things that have worked well for our family too. People ask me about things I've posted because they know I've had experience.

6. Winning! Lance, I've won my favorite 2 pairs of earrings from blogging! I've also won lotion and Halloween soap. Totally a legit reason to blog.

7. Every year I post what I want for my birthday or for Christmas. It appears to be the only way you figure out what to buy for me.

8. Blogging is the way I'm recording Lucan's month to month progress. No Mom, I haven't started on Lucan's baby book yet. But I'm blogging, so it totally counts.

9. Blogging is my passive aggressive way to deal with whatever is presently ailing me :) This blog post - total reiteration of my passive aggression.

10. Something for me to add onto our Christmas newsletter. We're getting boring in our old age, so this blog works as a filler.

There you go. 10 totally legit reasons for me to blog. Eat it Lance.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

2012 Resolutions: More Vegetables

I like to tell Lance fairly often that no one ever died from eating too many vegetables. He doesn't believe me. If you know someone who ate too many vegetables and died, let Lance know. I'm sure he'd like a "I told you so" moment.

Here are a few ways I'm approaching this resolution:

  • I like to throw fresh spinach or shredded zuchinni into spaghetti sauce. It's not hard to sneak in extra vegetables into sauces.

  • But with my resolution to incorporate more vegetables into our daily diets, I've been looking at reducing the amount of meat we use and trying new vegetables. Meat is expensive. If we are having chicken breasts, we'll cut them in half and put them in leftover containers from the very get-go.

  • If I cut back on the amount of meat I use in a recipe, I'll try and substitue some beans in. Beans are cheap and add some heft.

  • Last weekend I put carrots in our muffins. Granted, they were Morning Glory muffins, but I still think it counts. The were excellent. I highly recommend. I go so far as to admit they were eaten so quickly that I didn't have any left to take pictures of them.

  • The week before I bought some bok choy. I had no idea what to do with it, but I successfully incorporated it into two dishes: a soup and Sesame Peanut Noodles. Sadly, I under cooked the noodles and didn't measure how many I needed to boot, so they turned out slightly crunchy and dry. But the flavor of the sauce was excellent. Next time will go better.

  • I'm thinking about buying parsnips. Again, I have no idea what to do with them, but I've heard good things about them. I think I should probably just buy a random vegetable and pledge to myself to figure how to incorporate it somehow.

Here are two recipes incorporating my "more vegetables" resolution:

Morning Glory Muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups grated carrots
1 apple - peeled, cored, and chopped
1 cup raisins
1 egg
2 egg whites
1/2 cup apple butter (I used applsauce)
1/4 c canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly oil 18 muffin cups, or coat with nonstick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, apple butter, oil and vanilla.
In a large bowl, stir together flours, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in carrots, apples and raisins. Stir in apple butter mixture until just moistened. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them about 3/4 full.
In a small bowl, combine walnuts and wheat germ; sprinkle over the muffin tops.
Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and spring back when lightly pressed.

Peanut Sesame Noodles

For peanut dressing
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup warm water
1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 medium garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Asian toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes or a splash of the hot sauce or chili paste of your choice

For noodles
3/4 lb dried soba or rice noodles (dried linguine fine or spaghetti will work in a pinch)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips
Edamame, bok choy, carrots, cilantro
Peanuts for topping
3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

Put dressing ingredients in a blender until smooth, about 2 minutes, and then transfer to a large bowl.
Cook pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until tender. Drain in a colander, then rinse well under cold water. Add vegetables to wok and stirfry briefly, add dressing, tossing to combine. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately.
You could also stir fry some chicken, shrimp or tofu to add protein to the dish.