Friday, December 31, 2010

The Good [Handmade] Stuff: Fall Projects


Hooray! Today I just set up my brand new scanner! Aha, now my techno year is 2003 instead of 1998!

Anyway, I thought I'd catch up on a few old projects that I wanted to record (to quote my mother, "did you write that down?"), so I'll remember that I wasn't eating bonbons all day during the fall of 2010.

Above is Peter's birthday party invitation, designed by my talented friend, Kari. You can see that I hid the address there, but don't you love it?! I love it all! Thanks, Kari! Another fun thing that I made for the party were the favor bags

We had these waiting at the end of a Peter Pan treasure hunt in our backyard. Just a quick little burlap pouch with a leather tie and button. We filled them with these cool mermaid whistles, and pirate's spyglasses, feathers, candy rocks, and other candy. Pixie sticks would have been perfect, too. The best ideas always come after, don't they?
I love October in New England, because Peter's party is usually ok outside. Shane designed the Neverland cake, which was both awesome and not photographed.


I ended up making the boys' costumes for Halloween, and Nathan's turned out pretty cute. His snowy owl costume was often mistaken for an angel, and how can you not think that this curly blond head with tights could be anything else? But, he really was an owl. Once again, I borrowed this costume idea from Brooke at Inchmark.

Peter's bat costume had mixed results. I think it looked pretty cool and I liked that he could bundle up without covering his costume. The umbrellas were pretty pokey and limiting, though. I got the instructions for the wings and that hat from marthastewart.com. The fleece pants that I made are still in use as pajamas.


And, finally, I made Jill's awesome leaf garland. Such an easy, pretty project! We also hung some leaves from our chandelier and put the most colorful ones in vases on our mantel. We are lucky to have a huge supply of beautiful leaves in our backyard.
Next up: Christmas projects! Almost caught up!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Good Taste: Moroccan-Spiced Chicken with Olive, Apricot, and Pistachio Couscous

From February 2009 Martha Stewart Living

Chicken
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 whole chicken (4 pounds), quartered, skin on
1 lemon, quartered

1. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the center rack of oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix spices, 2 teaspoons salt, 3/4 teaspoons pepper, and the oil in a small bowl. Rub spice paste all over chicken.
2. Carefully arrange chicken in a single layer on hot sheet, and arrange lemon wedges around chicken. Back until chicken registers 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer and juices run clear, 30 to 35 minutes. Let stand from 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper,and serve with pan juices and lemon wedges on the side.

Thoughts: This is a sensational dish! It has a long ingredient list, but, ah, once I bit into the chicken, it took me to another place. I quartered the chicken myself, with great trepidation and a pair of poultry scissors from a neighbor. To my utter disbelief, it was a low-drama, 5-minute procedure. I intend to buy whole chickens from here on out, because I prefer the dark meat on the bone and I'm inching my way to buying only organic meat and poultry. For now, I'll avoid the boneless/skinless chicken breasts that tragically belong to those birds we saw on Food Inc. This dish was eagerly devoured by every member of the Lloyd family: both 30 year-olds, the four year-old, and the 15-month old.

Couscous:
1 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) unsalted butter
1/4 cup dried apricots, preferably Turkish, chopped
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped green olives (about 6 large olives)
1 cup couscous
2 tablespoons shelled pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Bring water, salt, and butter to a boil in a small saucepan. Add apricots, olives, and couscous, swirling pan to submerge ingredients. Cover, remove from heat, and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir with fork, then fold in pistachios and lemon juice. Serve immediately.

Thoughts: A great accompaniment to the chicken, soaking up all the pan juices in the best, absorbent way. Peter was not a fan of the "goosegoose," but we adults didn't really notice, because we were snarfing it down.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Be Prepared: Keeping the Boys Clothed


After a weekend of celebrating Christmas, today is Monday. Beautiful Monday, December 27! I love all that comes with Christmas, and then...I love the days after Christmas, when we return to normal bedtimes, decreased sugar intake, and our daily routines (which is not entirely true, since we were hit with a nor'easter yesterday and we're happily snowed in. Let's just say, we're easing back in).

Today, I am refocusing on my early New Year's Resolution to be better prepared for my life. Prior to our two cross-country moves this last year, I used to be vigilant at buying the next year's clothes at clearance sales. When we were moving so much, I got out of the habit, since I couldn't stomach the idea of moving around clothes that were too big to be worn. Now that we're settled in, I am trying to stay ahead of my growing boys, which is quite a feat, I assure you.

An old friend of mine, Kalee, is a master of collecting a good, affordable wardrobe for her kids ahead of time. Years ago, she gave me her list of items that she looks out for when she's running errands. I like this size of wardrobe, because I can go a week without having to do laundry, but it's not so big that I end up with outgrown clothes that have never been worn. In years past, I have printed out this list, taken inventory of the clothes that we already have, and carried the list with me while keeping my eye out for these items at various places around town. And, of course, there a few things that I make myself (because $15 is way too much for fleece pants, when I can make some in 30 seconds for free.). So, without further ado,

THE LIST THAT KEEPS THE BOYS CLOTHED


LITTLE BOY'S WARDROBE
Cold Months:
8-12 long-sleeve tshirts/henley-type shirts
3-4 rugby/button-down shirts
1-2 hoodie sweatshirts
1 turtleneck

3 pairs of fleece pants
3 pairs of jeans
2 pairs of other pants

1 fleece jacket
1 winter coat
1 pair of snowpants
1 pair ski socks
snow boots
snow accessories: ski mittens, neck gator, hat

Warm Months:
8-12 short sleeve shirts
8-12 pairs of shorts
1 swimsuit and shirt
crocs
leather sandals

Church Clothes
2 pairs chinos for church
3 dress shirts
3 sweaters for church or nice places
a couple belts
a couple ties
church shoes

Pajamas, Underwear, etc:
7-8 pairs of pjs
10 pairs of socks (a mix of athletic, dressy, fun)
15 pairs of underpants

BABY'S WARDROBE (15 months)
Same, with the addition of
9 long-sleeve white onesies
9 short-sleeve white onesies
2 pairs of Robeez shoes
And no underpants, of course.
(when he starts to walk, a pair of my favorite See Kai Run shoes)

Both boys need cowboy boots in their different sizes, because, who can resist a four-year-old and a fifteen-month-old in cowboy boots?

There are some pretty fierce sales out there today, so I'm off to print off my list and hunt for some cozy winter clothes for next winter!

image: Wiener Werkst├Ątte, Woman with Packages. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Early New Year's Resolution

Maybe no one else is interested in setting goals, say, the week before Christmas, but I feel urgently compelled to begin my new resolution now. My resolution follows the Boy Scouts' motto:
be prepared

A few weeks ago, I went into the Beinecke Library, where I used to work. I was chatting with a few old colleagues and a woman who began working there after I had left. I introduced myself, and added as a joke, "I'm the one who put the books back in the wrong places." One of my colleagues immediately responded, "Oh, not you, Becca. You would never misshelve a book. You are much too organized and focused to do that!" I stood there. I blinked. I said a silent prayer that this woman would always remember me in this way. I tried to think back to then, that time a millennium ago before kids...and, yes! I do believe I was organized. I do believe I planned ahead, set goals, had a predictable routine. I know now that in this particular phase in life, I can never expect the same sort of efficiency and productivity that I had then. And thank goodness for that, right?! I'm happy to live in a way that is so unlike a robot and so full of life.

However, a lot of things happened last summer. Most notably, our big move. And, after feeling pretty settled in my Utah routine, I haven't felt totally comfortable with my Connecticut groove. I find myself stuck with dreary, unplanned afternoons with the kids, thinking that if only I had taken a minute the night before to make a few plans, or find myself without my camera at the most beautiful moments of my day. My phone does not have a home, which is extremely dangerous. I am wishing for a better long-term planning system, so that next time Shane has a vacation week, we can go on vacation! Imagine that! I find that my information is in different places throughout the house, and I don't love having information that I need for the day to be on my laptop, since Nathan is so fixated on destroying the computer.

So.

I am taking steps today to prepare myself for life. After reading the inspiring book, Steady Days, I am trying to help our little life here at the Lloyd household. As I am not a member of the cool phone club, I am not technologically equipped for amazing organizing apps. However, I am managing to organize my life by simply putting a 3-ring binder to use (nicknamed "the coach"). The binder has several sections --one section for daily "plan", a monthly calendar, a weekly meal plan with a plastic sleeve for the week's recipes, bills and a plastic sleeve that holds tithing slips, and a checkbook and stamps for those pesky bills that I still pay by mail, and the last section is named "braindump", which is my most invaluable resource. Every time I think of something that is bouncing around in my brain, I write it down in the braindump section; I also take a minute first thing in the morning to sit and think if there is anything that should be written down there. Ah, it's a relief to have one place to be able to write these things down. I do much better when I have this information for me on paper in one place. I can't keep track of things on the computer. The screen just doesn't quite work.

The plan is to have a big meeting with myself on Sunday evenings, planning meals, activities, and appointments. Then, throughout the week, I take a minute every night directly after putting the boys down and plot out plans for the next day. If I just spend from 7:00 to 7:30 packing a lunch, getting out supplies for a fun activity, putting away shoes and mittens so they can be found instantly, and just thinking about it, the next day has a destination. I feel like I'm taking advantage of these precious moments with my little guys, rather than wishing away the minutes until they go to [insert: kindergarten, high school, college!]. I've got my kids' attention right now and I want to make the most of it!

With the basics planned out, I've had a chance to think longer term--what can I help the boys learn this next year? What kinds of fun things do we want to do this summer? What kinds of activities do Nathan and Peter like to do together? I'm excited to really think about mothering on a broader level. I must add one major caveat here, however: with all the plans that I've been making, I continue to be a soft as putty when the realities of life with tiny kids hit. I don't care if the plans don't work out. I find that being spontaneous is easier for me when there is a plan, because I have a choice of plan a and (new) plan b. Hey, let's get crazy and do the unexpected. I just don't care for large expanses of unplanned time with preschoolers. That is not spontaneous fun, that is torturous negotiating about why we don't eat ice cream for lunch and why we can't jump off the couch onto our baby brother. What I really want as a mom right now is to have A LOT OF FUN. I want to enjoy being with my boys. If I can think ahead about how to do this, I'm hoping to increase the odds.

Other things I need to do to be prepared: make a diaper bag that works. I have 3 diaper bags at the moment that have zero functionality. I actually feel mad when I look at them. I am going to design and sew my dream diaper bag! Yay! With enough room for my massive camera, special pockets for my keys, my phone, and (safe) storage for knitting, and, of course, enough room for diapers, wipes, and little packages of tissues. Ah, I need those tissues. Does anyone have a good place to buy them? What would you think of me if I told you that the last time we went to the park, I resorted to wiping Nathan's nose with a leaf? Pretty classy.

And, as the busy season of birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas winds down, I'd like to plan ahead and use the barren months (January, February, March) to get ahead. I love Christmas so much, and there are many things that I'd love to do for next year. Planning ahead! Being prepared!

I'd also like to dedicate some of my resolution for food storage to prepare for any eminent danger or disaster that might come our way. I'm dedicating the first FHE of the month to being prepared, with food storage planning, 72-hour kit assembling, and escape-route plotting. Peter even asked me the other day, "Mom, if there was a fire on the stairs and we were in bed, how would we get out?" Ummmm, good question, Peter. Let's figure that out!

So. anybody there [crickets chirping]? I'd like to post more on this blog, and report specifically about my progress. It's a sensational way to feel accountable for all that goes on around here. I know that being a mom at home who writes a blog could not be more cliche, but I love the support I feel from you friends out there. There are very few adult voices in my life, simply because I don't have the luxury of talking on the phone much or meeting up for lunch (imagine: meeting up with friends for lunch without kids! dreamy...) So, I'll be posting more....and if you leave a comment, I will love you for it.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Good Taste: Arroz con Pollo

Or, Rice with Chicken, which does this tasty dish no justice.

Adapted from February 2010 Martha Stewart Living

pinch of saffron
6 chicken thighs (we used 8)
coarse salt and fresly ground pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic (2 to 3 cloves)
1 large tomato, diced
2 dried bay leaves
5 1/2 cups chicken stock, plus more if needed
3 cups short-grain rice, preferably Valencia (kalustyans.com)
1 cup pimeinto-stuffed green olives

1. The original recipe calls for wine, but I use one cup of stock instead: combine 1 cup of chicken stock and saffron; let stand until ready to use. Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large braiser or heavy-bottomed straight-sided saute pan over medium-high heat. Cook chicken, skin side down, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook until golden brown, 2 minutes; transfer to a plate.

2. Reduce heat to medium, and cook onion and garlic, stirring often, until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Add tomato, and cook, stirring often, for 15 minutes. Stir in stock-saffron mixture, 1 tablespoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and the bay leaves. Cook until wine is almost completely evaporated, 10 to 15 minutes. Add chicken, stock, rice, and olives; bring to a simmer.

3. Reduce heat to low. Cook, covered, stirring halfway through, until rice is tender, about 45 minutes. (If rice is not done, add more stock, 1/4 cup at a time.) Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper.

Thoughts: The most deliciously comforting meal for fall. Goes great with my favorite side, spinach and chickpeas.

Friday, October 15, 2010

I love a Good Party: Birthday Baby


October is birthday season at our house. We kicked things off with baby Nathan's first birthday party. He's one! I can hardly believe it!



Admittedly, the choco-chip face is not nearly as cute, but whatever
.


We kept the party very exclusive, only inviting immediate family members and grandma, who happened to be visiting, and our other grandma via skype. I found an appropriate banana cake recipe for our little monkey. It only seemed right, since he does consume 1 to 3 bananas per day.



Somehow, October has been an extremely busy month for us, but I was determined to give something handmade to our birthday boy. I managed to finish these birthday blocks, which became my bane of life after piecing together all of those tiny scraps. However, I am loving that I used up many bits of fabric that have already moved across the country twice. The instructions for the blocks can be found in Amy Butler's Little Stitches. These blocks are so satisfyingly stackable.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Good [Kids'] Stuff: Mama School

I am so happy to be on the other side of our cross-country move! It has been a whirlwind of a summer, and I often worry if I gave our boys enough of what summer should be. But, one very high highlight was our mama school sessions (our hour together in the mornings during Nathan's naps). I have continued to frame the weekly activities around one story. I'll just record what I can remember...


Our first week was Robin Hood. One very exciting artistic development for Peter is his emerging figural objects--he draws wonderful people, like Maid Marian and Prince John shown here as puppets.
We also spent some time talking about coins, since Prince John is always counting his coins. I happened to have some old silver dollers and Susan B.'s in my purse (found when I went through my old childhood boxes at my parents) and showed them to Peter. I threw in some foreign coins for added excitement, and that made me feel justified in keeping them. And it is nice to see the old cintimes, pounds, and lire from pre-Euro Europe. Do they still use pounds? I always get mixed up there. I also had an old magnetic dart board and Peter and I had a archery duel. There were no fatalities.

We had to spend a week talk about the book What People Do All Day. Does anyone else love this book? We are all about Busytown.

Here is Farmer Alfalfa's farm:


Here is Stitches the Tailor's newly built house:
Peter and I built this popsicle-stick house while my brother was here and I sadly told Peter that I couldn't find any toothpicks for the windows. After my brother left our place to return home, I saw these little sticks that he had made for us out of extra popsicle sticks. I thought that was so sweet. Don't they look great?


We spent a week talking about the Three Billy Goats Gruff. I had some activities planned (Bridge building! Horns and their many uses! Troll home design!). However, we ended up spending all of our time on these awesome huge pictures of the characters
The artist with his work
Middle Billy Goat
Really, this is the scariest troll I've ever seen. Check out the face:

(so blurry! Oops) This might give me nightmares!



Biggest billy goat. I am responsible for the zigzags.
The face!


We have also been busy at the library, hitting them up for any extra craft activity they have going on. Here is Peter's skunk and rainbow fish.

As much as I'm looking forward to preschool, and for a moment to finally unpack those last boxes in the basement and do some sewing, I have really loved this time with Peter. I'm hoping to continue our morning sessions on the off-days of preschool. Two mornings a week seems perfect to me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Good Taste: Marinated Grilled Chicken Legs

Yes, another grilled chicken (drumstick!) recipe! I'm on a roll!

From August 2007 Cooking Light

1 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons basil oil
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
8 chicken drumsticks (about 2 1/4 pounds), skinned
cooking spray

1. Combine the first 11 ingredients (!) in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to bag, seal. Marinate in refrigerator 2 hours, turning bag occasionally
2. Prepare grill
3. Remove chicken from bag, reserving marinade. Place reserved marinade in a small saucepan; cook over medium heat 3 minutes. Place chicken on grill coated with cooking spray. Grill 30 minutes or until chicken is done, turning and basting occasionally with reserved marinade. Yield: 4 servings.

Thoughts: So many ingredients! I laughed when I saw 'basil oil'. Yeah, right. Maybe I'll be more into that someday. I have to admit, though, the chicken was delicious.

Good Taste: Sweet and Spicy Chicken

From June 2009 Real Simple

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Coarse salt and black pepper
1 3 1/2-to-4-pound chicken, cut into 10 pieces

1.Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the oil, chili powder, sugar, oregano, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
2. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Place the chicken in a roasting pan and rub with the spic mixture. Roast until cooked through, 45 to 50 minutes. Serve hot, room temperature, or chilled.

Thoughts: I love roasted chicken--it makes itself. I used only drumsticks, since we were taking this to eat at the play in the park with friends. And I love the drumsticks the best. Never underestimate the drumstick.

Good Taste: Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Mustard

So many recipes....I have other things on my mind than food--it's true! But, I've been having fun with the grill this summer, so here are a few more food posts.


From Martha Stewart Living, June 2009


1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
2 garlic cloves, minced
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 chicken cutlets (6 oz each)
1 large red onion, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
3 ounces aged cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
1 baguette, cut crosswise into 4 pieces and halved horizontally
3 tablespoons creme fraiche
3 sour pickles, thinly sliced lengthwise

1. Mix 1/4 cup mustard, the oil, dill, garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Add chicken and onion and toss to coat. Refrigerate, covered, for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat grill to medium-high. Grill onion, turning often, 8 to 10 minutes. Grill chicken on 1 side for 3 minutes; flip, top with cheddar, and cook 3 minutes more. Cut cutlets in half. Grill baguette, cut sides down, until crisp, 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Mix remaining 3 tablespoons mustard and the creme fraiche in a small bowl. Spread onto cut sides of baguette. Sandwich chicken, pickles, and onion between bread.

Thoughts: I should always have Shane grill our chicken. My lack of patience always results in almost-safe-but-I-wish-I-gave-it-5-more-minutes doneness. Really fab French sandwich; actually so much better than all the on-the-go baguette sandwiches I ate in Paris (at Paul's--anyone remember that chain? Shane and I would always exclaim, "Merci, Paul" when we saw one. Had to be there, I guess.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Good Taste: Plum Upside-Down Cake

From August 2008 Real Simple

1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan, at room temperature
4 firm, ripe plums, each cut into 8 wedges
1/4 cup plus 2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
2/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

2. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the plums and 1/4 cup of the sugar and cook, tossing until the sugar dissolves and the juices from the plums become syrupy, 3 to 4 minutes. Arrange the plums in the cake pan in slightly overlapping concentric circles, starting from the outside. Spoon any pan juices over the top.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

4. With an electric mixer, beat the remaining 1/2 cup of the butter and 2/3 cup of the sugar until fluffy. beat in the egg, sour cream, and vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated.

5. Pour the batter over the plums and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 1 hour. Place a large plate over the cake pan and invert the cake onto the plate.

Thoughts: Criminally simple for how tasty and pretty it is--20 minutes prep. Great way to celebrate summer's beautiful fruit.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Good Taste: Greek-Style Picnic Salad

From September 2007 Cooking Light

2 cups uncooked write rice
1 cup boiling water
3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 cups bagged, prewashed spinach (about 8 oz.)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups (8 oz.) reduced-fat feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 (15 1/2-oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
10 lemon wedges

1. Cook rice according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Cool to room temperature; set aside.

2. Combine boiling water and sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl; let stand 30 minutes or until soft. Drain and cut into 1-inch pieces.

3. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add spinach and garlic; saute 3 minutes or until spinach wilts. Combine rice, tomatoes, spinach mixture, cheese, and next 5 ingredients (though chickpeas). Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil; toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with nuts; serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

Thoughts: Perfect last-minute meal, as most of the ingredients are already in the pantry. Would be so good with pine nuts, but pine nuts are as expensive as diamonds these days. Was there a pine nut catastrophe? This is such a deceivingly quick dish and very tasty.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Good Taste: Grilled Zucchini and Eggplant Pizza with Tapenade and Fontina

From August 2005 Bon Appetit:

Dough:
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 envelope active dry yeast
Generous pinch of sugar
3 1/4 to 3 3/4 cups all purpose flour, divided

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt

Topping:
3 medium zucchini, trimmed, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick strips
2 small eggplants, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick strips
3.4 cut extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3/4 cup purchased black-olive tapenade
3 tablespoons mince fresh marjoram or fresh oregano
3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 1/2 cups (packed) coarsley grated Fontina cheese
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

For Dough:
Stir 1 1/4 cups warm water, yeast, and sugar in a large bowl to blend. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 10 minutes. Whisk in 1 cup flour; let stand in warm draft-free area until bubbling, about 30 minutes.

Stir oil and salt, then 2 cups flour into yeast mixture. Knead dough in bowl until almost smooth and beginning to pull away from sides, adding 1/4 cup more flour to prevent sticking. Turn dough out onto floured surface, knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls as needed, about 7 minutes. Place dough in lightly oiled large bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, for topping:
Prepare barbecue. Arrange zucchini and eggplant slices on 2 large baking sheets. Brush vegetables with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill until tender and golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to platter.

Sprinkle 3 baking sheets with flour. Punch dough down. Divide dough into 3 equal pieces; roll out each piece on floured surface to 12x8-inch oval. Transfer to prepared baking sheets. Brush dough tops with oil. Place ovals, oiled side down, on hot side of grill rack and grill until bottoms are firm (watch closely to avoid burning), about 3 minutes. Turn crusts over, grill until dough is set, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to baking sheets, grill mark side up.

Spread 1/4 cup tapenade over each pizza, arrange grilled zucchini and epplant slices over. Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon marjoram and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Drizzle lightly with oil. Sprinkle each with 1/2 cup Fontina and 1/3 cup Percorino Romano. Return pizzas to cooler side of grill. Cover and grill until cheese melts, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle pizzas with parsley; slice and serve.

Thoughts: This meal brought to us by Trader Joe's. Olive Tapenade: $2.50; Fontina: $3. So cheap. Anyway, the eggplant was too chewy after grilling, so I tossed it. This was my first grilled pizza and I am such a fan--no hot oven in the hot summer! This recipe was a hit with all the Lloyd eaters. Success!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Good Taste: Chicken Salad with Potatoes and Arugula

From August 2008 Real Simple

1 pound new potatoes
Kosher salt and pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 rotisserie chicken
3 bunches arugula, thick stem removed
1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan, shaved

Place the potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, reduce heat, and simmer until tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain, run under cold water to cool, and slice.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Using a fork or your fingers, shred the chicken, discarding skin and bones.

In individual bowls, combine the arugula, chicken, tarragon, and potatoes. Drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Thoughts: Perfect autumn salad, especially on a busy day.

The Good [Kids'] Stuff: Poisson Rouge


I have been very reluctant at giving my kids much screentime, but after a crazy summer of packing, moving, living at grandmas, moving again, and unpacking, there have been moments that I've needed a little something up my sleeve to help Peter stay entertained. My amazing friend, Krisanne, introduced me to the kids site, Poisson Rouge (red fish). It is endless! It has very cute, happy games, no annoying Dora or Elmo, and a cool art vibe. Peter can navigate it so easily, it scares me. I didn't know he could drag things on my laptop until I saw him do it so deftly on one of the puzzles. The website is French, although there are multiple languages offered. Once I walked in, and he was doing one of the games in Greek and trying to repeat the words--that was hilarious.

Does anyone else have any kids' websites to recommend?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Good Stuff for Me: What I'm Listening To....continued


I recently went to an art history conference in Amsterdam, where I had the opportunity to hear Neil MacGregor speak. Neil MacGregor is the director of the British Museum. After he spoke, I gasped! He was incredibly inspiring, thought-provoking, and best of all, a fabulous story teller. After talking to a few art history folks there, I learned that he is doing a series for the BBC called "History of the World in 100 Objects." Mr. MacGregor started these lectures in efforts to attract a more diverse crowd at the museum. These are 15-minute mini-lectures (lectures make it sound boring; these are really engaging, exciting story-telling sessions). All the objects are in the collection and each segment follows the thesis of the entire project: we, as humans, are more alike than we are different. At moments, these talks are so very poignant that I have to fight back the tears. You can listen to these lectures here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Good Taste: Grilled Shrimp and Lemon Kebabs

If you know me (and you all do, I'm guessing), you may know about my secret. I have this bad tendency to hoard recipes. Not like you imagine, where I'm drowning in papers and have to clear a path to my bedroom! Maybe hoard is too strong of a word...maybe I collect recipes. Many recipes, 3 overflowing binders of recipes, mostly in the form of magazine clippings. So, I am changing my system. I always have thrown away recipes that haven't impressed me and my food tasters, but now I am going to dump all the successful recipes right here and throw away the paper. This means that there will be a lot more recipes on here and more peace in my life.


Grilled Shrimp and Lemon Kebabs

24 medium shrimp

2 lemons, cut into small wedges

3 yellow Squash or Zucchini, ends trimmed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

4 sprigs fresh basil

16 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes

Heat a broiler on high. Place the shrimp and lemon wedges on 8 skewers, alternating them. Halve the squash or zucchini lengthwise, then cut them into 1-inch-thick slices. Divide the squash among the remaining 8 skewers. Place the skewers on the grill and cook until tender, 3 to 4 minutes each side. Serve the shrimp and squash with the basil, torn into pieces if desired.

Thoughts: this meal takes 10 minutes and the grilled lemon is great squirted over everything. Yummy with simple salad or rice pilaf.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Good Taste: No room for ice in our ice cube trays!

[note: this post was intended to be created pre-move! Currently, our ice cube trays are still in a box!]

For the past few months, our ice cube trays have been filled with baby purees. After ecstatically receiving an immersion blender for Christmas from my mother-in-law, I have been pureeing up a storm for little Nathan.

My best resource for baby food has been Annabel Karmel's First Meals. It has great ideas for purees, as well as food for toddlers and preschoolers. We especially love our 'sunshine rice' (which is officially Paella in the cookbook). There are newer editions of this book, as well as other similar books by this author, but I've checked them out from the library and still love this one the most. Be warned: she has some pretty intense meal planning for babies and she also recommends milk and bread too early for my liking. We really only do the simple veggie and fruit purees (and not even all she recommends--who wants cauliflower puree?). For the the more exciting combos, we've been going back to my very favorite Earth's Best baby food, which is usually on sale at Amazon (like it is today) and is cheaper than Gerber.

Nathan is just now growing out of baby food, which is a relief to both of us. He likes to feed himself and I like to eat my dinner. I'm remembering what I used to give Peter at this age: chickpeas, toast, soft fruit and berries, little bits from my meal, and cheerios. Lots of cheerios. So, tell me, what little finger foods am I forgetting?

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Good [Kids'] Stuff: Survival Mothering

I have a large amounts of posts in my mental queue for both this and my family blog, not to mention a few other writing projects that I'm excited about, but I thought I'd record a few activities we've been doing that I'd rather not forget. Everything in our lives is unbelievably scattered--while I was in Europe, my very kind husband moved us out of our apartment. While my parents are generously hosting us at their house, our belongings are strewn between both of our parents houses and a storage shed. Ugh, I just can't think about it too much, or my head starts to hurt. However, we are enjoying some wonderful time with family. And I can't believe how nice it is to have grandma's loving attention for Peter during the transition times. Man, I'm getting soft!

I am still committed to my Mama School, although the next three weeks have been designated by me as our "relocation break," while we get our family from this side of the country to the other.

Here are our lesson plans for the week before and after my Amsterdam trip:

Goldilocks and the Three Bears:
Monday: Read different versions of Goldilocks, play with toy set pulled together with small, blond, naughty-looking doll, and three bears. I also gathered dollhouse furniture (from my mom): three chairs, a breakfast table, three beds. This would be most successful with a doll house, recreating the bears cottage.

Tuesday: Bear Appreciation Day. We read lots of bear books today and learned all about their hibernation patterns. We also constructed a bear cave in the living room. Because all of our spare blankets had been packed, we borrowed some fitted sheets from my mom and found them to be exceptional in sofa-fort construction. By the way, have you seen these sofa fort critiques ? They make me laugh enough that Shane starts bugging me about why I'm laughing so hard.
I think this fort deserves a B-

Wednesday: Oatmeal--the super grain! As an homage to the too-hot, too-cold, and just-right porridge, we ate oatmeal for breakfast and made my favorite oatmeal cookies
Now that I'm writing this out, it would be fun, also, to do some activities surrounding the idea of 'too hot' and 'too cold' as well as all the other comparative analyses that Goldilocks makes throughout the book.

Thursday: Please Knock, Goldilocks! I checked out a few books about stranger danger--nothing too scary, but just preliminary thoughts about it.

Friday: Jumping and Running! More library books, this time about animals that jump (kangaroos) and run (cheetahs). There were also a couple of books, sort of 'running is fun' types of books that were complete duds with Pete. We had relay races (yes, just the two of us), and I almost blew his mind when I showed him my crabwalk. He is now completely taken with backwards running. We also did the long jump and high jump, and recorded his best jumps to show dad after work. (Dad impressed us by hitting the ceiling on his vertical jump.) I also pulled up the world record long jumper, just so Pete could see the pros. He was mildly impressed.


Curious George Rides a Bike:
[Note: this week was so crazy, half of my plans fizzled into us running errands or other unforeseen shananigans.]

Monday: Curious George and Curious Monkeys. We read all of the Curious George books and enjoyed a banana. If I had my real life, I would have checked out some books on monkeys and climbing, and headed to the park for some jungle-gym climbing.

Tuesday: Read all about it! We made a family newspaper with the latest family happenings (Day Out with Thomas, Sunday dinner with my brother, Summertime activities), remembering Curious George on his paper route. My vision was to print pictures from iphoto, but I narrowly held Peter's attention for writing out the articles on a large piece of butcher paper. I think this would be a really creative, fun activity for a slightly older child.

Wednesday: Paper Boats. The book provides some excellent instructions on how to create paper boats. We didn't exactly get to the activities today, but it would have been fun to make the boats and race them down a nearby stream. I'm also wanting to do the ever-popular "sink or float" activity.

Thursday: Trumpet Day! How could we not celebrate the trumpet, after reading about the ostrich who swallowed George's trumpet? Ideally, we would have had a few fun books about trumpets, watch some Youtube of one of my musical heroes, Wynton Marsalis (although we have already spent hours watching him!), and had fun playing on Peter's toy trumpet. Sounds fun. sigh.

Friday: Circus Parade. Another day of unfulfilled plans, but there was a plan! We were going to read about circus parades (a topic that is very popular among the child lit crowd). I loved building animal trains as a kid, by lining up orange and apple boxes in a straight line and putting stuffed animals in them. I remember barely fitting in the first box as the circus engineer! I hope that our lives can settle down enough to do this later on.

A few days ago, in a desperate moment to do something fun for the remaining two hours left before dinnertime (ah, that dreaded 3:00 pm stretch!), Peter and I created "La Familia Pizzaria". We made a menu (I left the pricing up to Peter, and his rates were amazingly reasonable, aside from the $17 tap water). I may just scan the menu a post it here for posterity, as proof that I was trying to salvage something from one of those days when the hours seemed to drag so painfully. As much as I would like to report that this was a wonderful success, unfortunately, both boys came down with stomachaches just minutes before the pizza was put in the oven, creating quite a chaotic restaurant experience. Two boys screaming and an oven at 500 degrees. Perfect. Anyway, the boys rested and Shane and I had a romantic dinner for two at the pizzaria. Peter managed to recover in time to order ice cream from the menu. Peter reminded me that ice cream is great for stomach aches. Right.

A friend of mine has been sharing some things she's been working on as far as summer activities with her kids and it got me thinking how nice it would be to hear what my friends are doing with their kids this summer. If you have some activities or thoughts to share and would like to do a post, please let me know!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Good [Handmade] Stuff: Baby Happy Pants

Our little guy can't stay little! When I was packing up our baby clothes to bring with us last summer, I was certain that I would not need the 18-month box. Shame on me for not remembering how big our boys are! As the summer months have approached, Nathan has been in need of a new wardrobe. I wanted to keep spending to a minimum, since that box of clothes that fit him is waiting for us after we move back in a few weeks (!). I bought some sale fabric from Sew Mama Sew and a fresh batch of onesies and called it good for now.
I used a combo of tutorials for these pants--I like the MADE tutorial and the instructions in Creative Family.

It is fun to have something fresh and new for this #2 boy!

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Good [Kids'] Stuff: Week 2 Mama School


I'm posting another week of our Mama School curriculum!

This Week: Peter Pan

We had to do this one. Peter's default activity is pretending to be Peter Pan (or one of the Lost Boys, or John, or Tiger Lily, or a really nice Captain Hook....but 99% of the time, he is Peter Pan). He really loved delving deeper into the topics surrounding this book.

Monday:
Read different versions of Peter Pan. I made another little toy set, using our playmobile guys, but there are so many different characters that it was a bit scattered.

We also checked out the original book on cd, which I took back to the library after about 15 minutes of listening. Call me overprotective, but I can't allow my three-year-old to listen to how each pirate prefers to kill other people. I do wish it wasn't so violent, because other parts of the story are so charming. I also cringed every time the narrator said "redskin." We are in a different age, I suppose. In retrospect, I would spend a day talking about Native Americans, and help try to bring some racial sensitivity about this group. Hopefully, I can do something like that soon.

Tuesday: Investigate Neverland's Sea Life
Read books about crocodiles and mermaids


Sang the alligator song "you can't catch me"--not sure of the actual title there
Talked about rough (crocodile skin) and smooth (fish scales), along with other rough and soft things
Planned a treasure hunt (treasure is in the water, right?); We did the treasure hunt twice and made one for Shane, which he did when he got home.



At the end, we played with this "treasure in a bottle"



I think this would be a perfect game for someone slightly older. Peter was pretty fixated on just opening the bottle up and getting the toys out, rather than enjoying the reveal/conceal aspect of the game.

Wednesday: Shadows
In the story, Wendy sews on Peter's shadow. I made this shadow lacing card for Peter, which was particularly difficult, since I had packed our single hole punch and was left trying to work the three-hole punch. Also, the cord I had for lacing was too thick, and turned out to be pretty frustrating for Peter. If I were to do it again, I would use yarn, I think. Peter did appreciate the effort, and has been playing with the shadow all week.




We also made hand shadows in the bathroom. Who knows where our flashlights are--New Haven? My parents' basement? Shane's parents' garage? In a box that we've packed? So, we improvised by shining a lamp on the bathroom wall and voila! He was SO INTO IT. We probably did hand shadows for 2 hours that day. And then again when Shane came home. Loved it.


Thursday: You can fly (but actually not)!
We talked about flying animals (insects, bats, and birds) and read books about how they do it.
We then read some books about why we can't fly and did some snazzy gravity experiments. My favorite book for these experiments is I Fall Down. It's was the only one that was geared toward really small kids, unlike the others, which Peter kept trying to slam shut while I was reading them. I get the hint, Pete.


First we dropped different things to see who wins (as predicted, it was a tie every time). We did a key vs. a penny, an orange vs. and orange, and the most popular, an orange vs. a grape. Our fruit was nice and juicy at lunchtime.


Racing a car down a ramp (flat packing box) and adding books to increase the grade and, consequently, the speed of the car. This was the favorite experiment, and by the end, Peter had stacked up all the books that are not yet packed.



Friday: Ships Ahoy!
[Sadly, we didn't get to the activities planned for this day. But, happily, my mom watched Peter while I had the morning to myself. But, sadly, I was just cleaning and working on a powerpoint presentation, and not at the spa or anything.]
Here's what we had planned for today:
Playing 'Sink or Float': dropping various objects in a sink full of water and noting the sinkers and floaters.
Making little rafts out of sticks and string or making paper boats ala Curious George.
We'll save these for later, I guess!

I mentioned this before, but I have been completely surprised by the good this little Mama School is doing for our relationship and Peter's behavior generally. The last two months were dreadful, but I have been shocked at the turn Pete has taken the last two weeks. I really look forward to our mornings together and Peter just begs for his Mama School! Yay!

The Good [Kids'] Stuff: Setting the Table



In my recent efforts to get some chores going, I made some placemats to help guide Peter in his new table-setting responsibilities. I found this cute fabric at Joann's in the scrap bin and went with it. Amazingly enough, after I set the placemats and dishes on the table, Peter does a great job getting everything just so. And, in addition to helping Peter learn to set the table, this project helped me really get the hang of zigzag stitching (right before I had to give my mom's Bernina back :( I just finished packing up all my sewing stuff today.) On to knitting projects, I guess.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Good [Handmade] Stuff: Crib Bedding love, Mama

I finally finished Nathan's crib set. I used Amy Butler's Little Stitches for both the fitted sheet and crib skirt. I used scrap fabric from Peter's Duvet cover, which helped coordinate things in the brother's room. Also, I can't complain about paying nothing for a new crib set versus paying a lot for bedding that I don't like nearly so much.

The sheet is a dream--I made it in one night and it is a better fit than our other store-bought versions. I can't wait to make some more!
I think the bedding looks the best this way. Nighty night, little one!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Good [Kids'] Stuff: Life After Preschool

We are currently in week one of no preschool. A girl can get used to certain things very quickly, and I got used to waving goodbye to Peter and enjoying some quiet time those three mornings during the week. I love this kid to bits, but without some real structure, mothering this child diminishes into a long discussion about why we can't eat more crackers and cheese or watch another show. As a side note: I have started letting Peter watch a half-hour show while I prepare dinner, because I have found that his interference with my cooking (and the accompanied frustration from the mama) is more dangerous than whatever the effects a half-hour of tv has on a child. Anyway, I had to come up with a plan. I'll share what I'm doing, with the recognition that it may come across a bit intense, but Peter is intense and so I'm just trying to come up with something that will suit his personality. Here is our daily plan:

I had this flannel board handy, which hadn't seen much action lately, and decided that it would do the job. It looks super structured, but we have yet to actually do everything on the board. Just having a destination does a lot of good for Peter. He struggles so much with transitions (all of you who have been around Peter lately have witnessed his dramatic exits), but when the board tells us what the next step is, he accepts it much more readily. I like having the day mapped out, too.

The 'jobs' portion of our day is mostly Peter helping me around the house, but I am hoping to start Peter on a few chores this summer that are only his. What jobs do you assign to your very young kids? Right now, I'm thinking he can put away the silverware from the dishwasher, dust, make his bed. I'm looking for good chore chart ideas!

The 'preschool' element has now shifted to 'Mama School'. In our last conference with Peter's preschool teacher, she described him as a huge question mark. Isn't that a terrific description?! Peter's appetite for learning is insatiable and that is maybe my favorite thing about him. This week I have started doing some simple activities while Nathan is having his morning nap, and now, the second Peter wakes up, he asks me what we're doing at Mama School. To my happy surprise, he has been overjoyed by each humble effort I have prepared for him. I am finding that this small two hour stretch has exponentially improved my relationship with Peter and let me mother in a way that I have always wanted to but haven't found the right way to do it. And this is just the first week! My mom encouraged me to write down what we did this week, so I can refer to it later with younger children, so here goes:

Mama School: Week One
This week, we are studying the story and accompanying topics surrounding the fascinating tale of the THREE LITTLE PIGS:

Monday: Read various versions of the Three Little Pigs; play with the three little pig toy set I put together. The toys set included three pigs, a toy wolf, building materials for the houses (straw: pipe cleaners, sticks: popsicle sticks, bricks: legos). This kept Peter busy for hours, as he kept recreating the story (Mama, what if the wolf was nice and was actually friends with the pigs?!)

Tuesday: Pig Appreciation Day. We talked about pigs and boars and the gentle art of truffle hunting. We read a few stories I had checked out on pigs and then did some finger painting in 'mud' or, really, chocolate pudding. Did you do this as a kid? I loved it.

You paint a little...

and then eat the rest.
fun!
Here is mine:I had also planned on making pigs-in-a-blanket for lunch, but forgot to buy hot dogs for it. Another time!

Wednesday: Wolf Appreciation Day. We talked about wolves, read a few wolfy books and even watched an educational kid's show about wolves. Then, we went to the wildly overgrown small area between our house and the house next door and made a wolf den.

night, night, Wolfy.

Thursday: House Building Workshop. We sketched out plans for what a super-duper cool house might be like. I kind of regret this, because Peter is so young and has no aspirations for anything more than our small apartment in New Haven. But, his face lit up when I added a huge slide and ice cream shop to the playroom. We also perused these favorite books of mine. They are still too old for Peter, but the illustrations are so incredible, I just can't wait to show him! David MacCaulay, thank you for these books!

I had also intended on making butter with Peter (since there is a butter churn in the version we read), but we ran out of time. Hooray! Too much to do!

Friday: A play of the Three Little Pigs. Peter has never seen a play and so I'm excited to help him star in his first production tomorrow. I think he'll get a big kick out of it. Shane and Nathan will be a gracious audience, no doubt.

Week one done! We'll see what I come up with next week!