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Archive for August, 2009

Something New

There’s something new in our living room…we filled up a bare wall with a photo display of our portraits from S’s one year session.  I can’t take the credit for this idea, it was J’s, but I love it.  I’m even more impressed that we have the pictures in frames and the photo ledge mounted all in less than a week since receiving the portraits!  Go J!  The frames I got on sale (and with a 30% off coupon!) at Kohl’s and the ledge is from West Elm

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Finding matching brown woodtones is nearly impossible, but I like how it turned out with the variety of browns, I think it makes it stand out more against the brown wall.

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(as of Sunday, August 30.  Who knows what it will be tomorrow!)

1. Books, books and more books.  Tonight I was reading to her before bed and she got up off my lap, walked over the bookshelf, pointed up and did the “more” sign…ok, more books…let’s see, do you want the firefly book? or how about the “I love you through and through book”…yes, that’s the one. 

She gets very demanding about her books and reading time with mommy or daddy. She’ll go to great lengths to pick out a book and bring it over to you and put it in your lap so you read it. 

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Here she is wielding her book for her next victim. You will read this TO MEEE!

2. Cooper’s water dish.  If I’m not careful she will quickly locate said dish in Cooper’s crate and I’ll find her splashing around in it with her hands.  Yuck.  Poor Cooper goes for hours without water when I forget to open his cage back up after we leave the kitchen.

3. Dogs!  She learned early on the sound that dogs make and can imitate the sound herself and makes the “wuuh, wuuh” sound whenever she sees a dog walking by or across the street in the park.  Other furry animals don’t seem to hold her interest like dogs do.

4. Mom.  Yes, me.  Apparently I am number one on her list as of late.  It’s nice to be wanted so much, but sometimes it can get a little annoying.  For example, if I’m trying to finish cleaning up after dinner and J is occupying her and she sees me, she throws a fit until I go and pick her up.  All of J’s attempts to divert her attention fail as she cries, MOMMA, MOMMA!

5. Playing hide and seek under the blanket with mommy.  Yesterday I brought our couch throw down on the floor when we were playing and I pretended to hide under it. She giggled and patted me on the back.  Then I peeked out and put the blanket over both of us and she thought that was so great. We did this for about 10 minutes (kind of a record in S’s attention span) and she couldn’t get enough of it.

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It’s almost over

Top Ten Reasons I Can Tell Summer is Ending…

1. It’s dark at 8:15 p.m…like, seriously night-time dark.

2. S’s bag for daycare is packed and waiting on the kitchen table.

3. My bottle of Mandarian Orange body lotion is empty (that was my summer lotion scent…time to break out the Black Raspberry Vanilla for fall).

4. I got my “back to school letter” in the mail.

5. S’s long-sleeved shirts and pants are all de-tagged, washed and hanging in her closet just waiting for that first chilly day.

6. All the summer outfits I brought for S to wear on our trip up north this past week went unworn…she was in pants the whole time.  It was cold!

7. Thoughts of apple-picking and pumpkin patches have crossed my mind.

8. S’s swimming lessons are finished.

9. There are mums for sale at our local grocery store.

10. S will be 14 months old in a few days…I remember looking at the calendar at the beginning of summer and thinking to myself that she will be 14 months old when summer is over.

We’ve had a great summer and made many happy memories withour little one year old S that I will cherish forever.

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J and I had our second “date night” this past Saturday evening. S stayed with her favorite (ok, ONLY) babysitter and it sounds like they had a blast. In keeping with our Italian/pizza theme this summer, we went to a restaurant on Monroe St. called Pizza Brutta. We had driven past it during our Trader Joe’s stop last week and thought it looked promising. No reservations are accepted at this place, and when we walked in, I could see why. You order at the counter, get a number and sit down at wooden tables and booths to wait for your “ugly pizza” (that’s what Pizza Brutta means, I asked).  The restaurant itself is very low-key, no fancy tablecloths here, the brick pizza oven is kind of the “fixture” of the restaurant and is visible behind the counter. The open atmosphere of the restaurant can get very loud, but it kind of reminded us of a typical pizza restaurant in Italy.  

We ordered the Caprese Salad to split, the Salami e Funghi pizza (Oregano, salami, gaeta olives, mushrooms) and a bottle of Citra (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo).  They make their own mozzarella here, so I was curious to try some in the salad.  It was good, you could tell it was homemade, but I think I prefer the caprese salad at Villa Dolce. Our pizza came out shortly after we finished our salad. The reason they are called “ugly pizzas” is due to the traditional style of Neapolitan pizza, a nice crisp crust, topped with just a hint of pizza sauce and the toppings kind of scattered all over the pizza. This is definitely not your greasy Pizza Hut style pizza. The crust just kind of melts in your mouth, it’s a nice, light but flavorful pizza.  We really enjoyed the ingredient combination on our pizza. As we savored the rest of our wine, we looked at the outline map of Italy on the wall at our booth and planned our “stops” on our next trip to Italy (which is definitely a loooong way off!).  They also serve gelato here, so we each had a dish of the cappuccino gelato. It was pretty good, I liked the cappuccino flavor (no need to order after-dinner coffee or espresso!), but this gelato seemed a little more airy/whipped than I’m used to. Again, I much prefer the gelato at Villa Dolce.

At any rate, we enjoyed some time to ourselves and a dinner out not spent supplying S with a steady stream of fish crackers and cheerios to keep her occupied. Not quite ready to go home yet, we stopped at Trader Joe’s across the street and picked up some things for our trip up north (and restocked the pizza dough supply, of course!). 

I give Pizza Brutta 3 bottles of wine (out of 5).

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Yup, that’s right…it’s Tinga Time!  What is Tinga, you ask?  Well, I’m not really sure what Tinga means exactly, but  it’s probably a native Spanish word for “super yummy, uber-messy, only eat amongst friends, crunchy, spicy goodness on a tostada”.  This recipe comes from straight from Mexico.  I learned how to make it while I was living there in college.  My “mexican mom” showed me how to make it.  It’s one of the two recipes that I know how to make by heart.  I have never before written this recipe down (despite J’s suggestion that I should, just incase I would ever forget it)…so here it goes:

Tinga:

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 large white onions (sliced)

3 medium tomatoes

1 can of chipotle in adobo

Boil chicken in a large pot of water until cooked through (about 10 minutes). Remove chicken from water, place on a platter and allow to cool.  Once chicken is cooled, shred into small pieces.

In a different pot, boil the tomatoes until the skin pops.  Add tomatoes to a blender with the can of chipotle in adobo (whole can), and a 1/4 cup of reserved liquid from boiling the chicken. Blend until smooth.

Drizzle a small amount (1 tsp or so) of oil (I used olive oil) in a large sautee pan, heat oil over medium heat. Once pan is hot, add sliced onions.  Stir occasionally.  Cook onions until translucent (about 7 minutes).  Add blended tomato mixture to onions.  Then add shredded chicken to the pan.  Allow to simmer on medium, stirring occasionally, for about 20-30 minutes until mixture thickens.  

Serve tinga over toastadas covered in sour cream (we use non-fat) and top with tomatillo salsa and fresh cilantro.

Tomatillo Salsa:

6-8 medium tomatillos (husks removed)

1-2 seranno peppers (stems removed)

2 cloves of garlic

a handful of cilantro

a wedge of white onion

salt

Boil tomatillos and serrano peppers in water for 10 minutes (to soften skins). Remove from water and place in a blender. Add remaining ingredients to blender and blend until smooth. 

Serve Tinga with your favorite Mexican beverage and lots and lots of napkins.  Buen provecho!

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Life of Leisure

I’m feeling pretty relaxed (when I wrote this a few days ago…) and pampered…the past two days J has taken over daddy duty while mommy indulged in some of her favorite pursuits (something I have not done in quite awhile)…getting a pedicure, shopping (alone!), and dining out.  On Wednesday, I had a spa pedicure scheduled at the Ultimate Spa & Salon.   It was great to sit back and relax with my feet in the bubbly water while the nail tech scrubbed and polished my feet into something worthy to slip inside a summer sandel.  I read a magazine the whole time and felt utterly relaxed.  Then it was on to shopping at Kohl’s (I had a coupon!).  Mostly I just bought stuff for S for back-to-daycare clothes.  I picked up some picture frames for our portraits from S’s 1st birthday and some other odds and ends.  I saved a ton with the sales and my coupon.  It was really nice to be able to walk around the store at a fairly leisurely pace and actually LOOK at things since I didn’t have S in tow.  Later that night I went out with some ladies from an internet site I frequent.  We went to Pasqual’s for some southwestern food.  It was my first time there…our waitress was crabby, they charge you for chips/salsa, the food was decent, but the margaritas were AWESOME!  I would have to say that they have the best margaritas in town.  I am secretly planning a trip back for happy hour on a Monday or Tuesday when ‘ritas are 1/2 price.  And if I have to pay for my chips, so be it.  The margaritas are worth it.  While I was out at dinner, J took S to swimming lessons. Sounds like everything went ok, except that last Wednesday night was lifejacket night and S didn’t care for the jacket at all!  I am secretly glad that I didn’t have to put S through that!  😉  J is a trooper, though, and such a good dad for letting mommy have some time to herself!

The next day we all drove to Milwaukee so I could meet up for lunch with my good friend from college. There are three of us that usually meet up for lunch, but one friend wasn’t able to make it, so it was just me and C. J once again came to the rescue and took S off to eat lunch and wander some stores while C and I ate lunch at Stir Crazy. We had a really nice lunch and got caught up on all the children and happenings.  It was good to see you, C!

It’s amazing how much your life changes once you have a child.  I mean, a simple act of going out to eat with a friend suddenly involves major planning and strategizing on best times to meet to schedule around naptimes and babysitters.  Once again, I’m so thankful that I have a husband who takes an active role in the parenting of our little lady…I know I wouldn’t be able to do this without him!  I have to say getting out and doing things alone for awhile really made me feel relaxed and rejuvinated, but I also really missed little S.  It’s true what they say, mommy needs her down time, it really does make you a “better” parent.

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Last night after dinner, J and I took S to the splash pad park in Middleton.  Now for all you loyal blog followers (um, that would be YOU if you are reading…feel free to spread out, there’s lots of room), you would know that I took S to her very first splash pad park a few weeks ago with my friend A.  While that park was fun and entertaining for little S, the Middleton park is much more sophisticated (and much more crowded, even at 7 at night when it is supposed to be closed).  But, our fearless little lady made her way through the fountains, sprayers, etc., while mommy followed close behind to protect her from the other children who were a little too zealous in their water pursuits to look out for a teetering 13 month old. I also got soaked in the process, but it was fun to see S check out all the water toys.

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J, S and I made a visit to Trader Joe’s  last Saturday and picked up many yummy things. The thing I really love about TJ’s is that you have to read every single package/label/can/bottle to figure out what everything is because it’s all so unique and so unlike any typical grocery-store fare.  This time we tried the Lacy’s cookies (milk chocolate and macadamia nut), organic animal crackers for S (which are a little on the crunchy side), dried mango and apricot, a bottle of Prosecco and some TJ brand Syrah, Boysenberry preserves for J, some Floes (which are uber-yummy frozen fruit bars), and to make our special pizzas, some whole wheat and garlic and herb pizza dough…oh, and not to forget the fat-free pizza sauce. The pizza dough was kind of the main reason for our trip to TJ’s, although it was also an excuse to get out of the house and for J to experience the wonders of TJ’s (although I don’t think he was as impressed as I was…). I’ve been wanting to make a baby pizza for S with the whole wheat pizza dough, especially since she hasn’t been too keen on eating her veggies lately, I thought this would be a perfect way to sneak them in.  Anyway, we finally got around to making our pizzas tonight.  I tried to make them as healthly as possible…

I let the dough sit at room temp for 20 minutes and portioned out what we would need for little individual pizzas.  I floured a rolling surface, rolled out the pizza dough and placed them on a lighly oiled baking sheet.  I added the fat-free pizza sauce to each pie, topped with some part-skim mozzarella cheese, topped with turkey pepperoni slices,  loaded on the veggies (I used yellow and green pepper, black olives, onion and mushrooms).  To kind of hold everything on the pizza, I topped with some more shredded mozzarella.  Popped ’em in the oven at 425 degrees and baked for 8 minutes. 

J’s and S’s pizzas before serving:

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Here’s S sampling her first baby pizza:

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My pizza.  We served it with Wollersheim Winery’s Prairie Sunburst Red.

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These little pizzas were pretty tasty.  I think next time, though, I will bake the dough without any toppings for a few minutes before adding everything so the crust can get a little more cooked. I’m glad S enjoyed her pizza (and some veggies….shhh!)

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In light of MSN’s rotating article feature on the homepage today (er, a few days ago), I thought I’d write about one of my favorite things.  Coffee.  Now some might think that all those late nights…or early mornings…or late nights that ran into early mornings of parenting a baby would have driven me to sell my soul to the caffeine devil, but actually, I’ve been enjoying my cups of joe since my good ol’ college days.  I am one of those people who NEED a cup of coffee in the morning, and none of that decaf, why bother, stuff either. I gotta have the real deal.  J and I got a  Cuisinart coffeemaker  for Christmas this past year and I love it.  One of its best features is that it is programmable (I also like that it has a metal filter so I don’t have to constantly buy paper filters for it…I also like that it has a water purifier right in the coffeemaker…but that’s enough about what I like about it…), so I can have a freshly-brewed, steaming cup waiting for me as S and I make our way downstairs in the morning.  I’m not saying that I actually get to DRINK said coffee right away with having to feed the munchkin, let the dog out, feed him, etc., so I’ve resorted to my trusty Thermos mug.  Keeps my coffee ready for me when I can sneak in an occasional sip.  Usually I don’t get to savor my coffee until S goes down for her morning nap (like I’m doing now…pause for a sip…ah!)

We typically make coffee at home, although we do induldge in the occasional, um, ok, frequent trips to Starbucks.  I can’t say that I enjoy the brewed coffee at Starbucks, it always seems to have that charred/over-roasted aftertaste, but I do enjoy a good Cafe Mocha or Caramel Macchiato…or a White Chocolate Mocha…or a Green Tea Frappaccino…

As it happens, J and I were just discussing Dunkin’ Donuts coffee yesterday on our drive out to Whitewater (I had to pick up some study guides for the National Certified Counselor Exam that I’ve signed up for in October) when we noticed that a Dunkin’ Donuts shop had opened up on one of the exits along the way. I’ve always heard that DD makes a great cup o’ joe and I commented that I’d like to try it sometime. Unfortunately, it was the middle of the day and I had already consumed my coffee quota for the day. Maybe next time.

I also have sampled the “free” mochas at McDonald’s on Mondays.  I felt sort of guilty just pulling through the drive-through without ordering anything, but then I figured I’ve probably purchased enough cheeseburgers and salty fries there in my lifetime to open a few Micky D’s.  So, I felt a little better about it after that. I was actually impressed with the quality of the mochas at Micky D’s.  However, it did feel strange to be holding a “specialty” coffee drink with the golden arches M on the cup.

It seems these three coffee franchises have been reviewed on MSN as well.  Guess I’ll need to make a stop at Dunkin’ Donuts afterall!

http://www.slate.com/id/2223965/?GT1=38001

Here is a coffee IQ quiz.  I failed miserably, but it was interesting nonetheless…

http://www.delish.com/food-fun/quizzes/coffee-iq-quiz-102308?GT1=47001

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When I’m searching for a recipe, I always seem to find the entree without any problems.  For me, the challenge is finding a suitable side dish to round out the meal.  Here’s a great combination that I picked out from my new favorite food blog (info below).  While it was a little more labor-intensive than most meals I’ve been making lately, I really wanted to try it and J was around to occupy S, so it all worked out.  Although this recipe called for some ingredient chopping and slicing of the zucchini, everything seemed to come together really quickly.  We were dining al fresco before we knew it.

Dijon Herbed Pork

Servings: 4 servings Time: 18-20 minutes Points: 5.25 ww points

  • 1 tsp butter
  • 4 pork chops, 1 inch thick, trim all visible fat
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 3 tbsp chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup fat free chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp chopped, fresh herbs like parsley, chives, tarragon (I only used the parsley and tarragon)

In a large frying pan, heat the butter over moderately low heat. Season pork with salt and pepper. Raise heat to medium and add the chops to the pan and sauté for 7 minutes. Turn and cook until chops are browned and done to medium, about 7-8 minutes longer. Remove the chops and put in a warm spot. (I warmed mine in the oven)
Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the stock and boil until it reduces to 1/2 cup, about 3 minutes. Stir in the mustard, herbs, and 1/8 tsp pepper. Put the chops on a platter and pour the sauce over the meat.

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J and I were impressed.  I didn’t find it overly mustard-y.  The dijon made the sauce a little thicker and was a light flavor in the background.  I mostly tasted the fresh herbs and the pork was nice and tender. I served this with a Dry Riesling from the Wollersheim Winery.

 

Zucchini Carpaccio
Servings: 4 5 minutes Calories: 81 Points: 1.5

  • 2 medium zucchini, ends cut off and thinly sliced (I used a vegetable peeler and it worked just fine)
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 4 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and fresh pepper
  • 1 cup baby arugula
  • 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan

Combine oil and lemon juice. Place a layer of zucchini to cover the bottom of a platter. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with a little olive oil and lemon juice. Repeat layering zucchini, salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice until all zucchini is used up. Let marinate for at least 10 minutes. Right before serving, top with fresh arugula, shaved Parmesan and serve.

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To layer the zucchini, I did a sort of basketweave pattern by alternating directions for each layer. I loved it and J said he could eat a meal of the zucchini all by itself!  It was very light, refreshing and satisfying…perfect for a summer meal outdoors.

Both of these fabulous recipes were found on “Gina’s Weight Watcher Recipes” blog.  This was the first meal I’ve tried from her blog and I was very impressed.  I think this will be my “go-to” recipe source for awhile!

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