Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Magnificent Muffin

Have I ever told you about the world's most perfect food?  It's the muffin.  Let me tell you why.  It's small and portable.  Delicious and quick.  Healthy (sometimes) and easy.  I make muffins every week for my husband and I to take as a snack.

If there is a piece of fruit rotting on my kitchen counter odds are good that it will be whipped into a muffin in short order.

I made these cranberry corn muffins when I was cleaning out the fridge and found a bag of cranberries. I am so skilled with muffins that I really don't use a recipe any more.  I have a basic idea of the amount of dry to wet ingredients and then I wing it. 

As a teenager I thought there was something wrong with me because I thought about food all the time.  In health class they make you watch horrific after school specials about girls with eating disorders, and I used to fret that I had one because I sometimes obsessed about food.  I didn't realize I was just a foodie.  

To me assembling the ingredients to bake is akin to taking a warm bubble bath or having a glass of wine.  It soothes my soul.  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Library

I have carried or dragged enough screaming kids out of public places that you would think I would be immune to it with my own child.  Well, not so my friends, not so.

There are cards you can make up if you have a child with autism and pass them out to strangers in restaurants or museums so they will stare sympathetically instead of judgingly.  These cards say something like, "my child has autism and some behaviors you can expect are..."  Today at the library I needed a card that said, "my child is 16 months and some behaviors you can expect are kicking, screaming, rolling around on the floor, and throwing books."

I think of myself as a good parent.  I'm not much of a pushover and it takes a lot to fluster me, but being tracked down by the librarian (carrying a walky-talky) and asked in a hushed tone if "everything was all right" is about my limit.  I snapped that my child was having a temper tantrum, and with as much dignity as a person carrying a toddler in a bear suit can muster, I went off in search of my husband.

I think because I work with children with such significant behavior problems I live in dread of my own child's misbehavior.  I'm constantly checking books to find out what exactly constitutes normal toddler behavior.  My perspective is a little whack, so I just want to be sure.  It turns out that "normal toddler behavior" might be a little elusive.  Either way, I'm pretty sure, my best days of carrying screaming children (my own or otherwise) are still ahead of me.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

My Grandma's Homemade Macaroni & Cheese

Callah's middle name is Mackenzie named for my Grandma Scott whose name was Mary Cameron Mackenzie.  Later she became a Scott when she married my grandfather.  When I found out I was pregnant I knew if I had a girl I wanted to name her after one of my amazing grandma's.  I had two lovely names to chose from; my dad's mom is named Frances June which I think is beautiful.
Callah's cheesy smile for our morning cooking macaroni and CHEESE, of course.
My Grandma Scott died when I was 23, I hadn't met my husband yet, started my career, or even considered having children.  When I remember my grandma I think about crossword puzzles, laughter, ice cream, cooking shows, clip on earings and blueberry muffins.

Upstairs in my Grandpa's house are dozens of diaries that my Grandma kept.  Nearly one for every year of her married life.  This summer I flipped to my birthday and smiled at the hastily written entry, "Ann Cameron Watson born around tea time."  She used those diaries to write her book--part cookbook/part memoir, which she self-published and sold at church functions.  The cover below shows the parsonage my mom grew up in, as illustrated by my Uncle MacKenzie.

I have one copy inscribed "to my darling granddaughter Ann," which is precious to me.  It has blueberry and oil stains, pencil marks scribbled in the margins, the pages are dog-eared and well read.  This morning I turned to one of our favorite recipes: macaroni and cheese.  Over the years I have strayed from grandma's recipe, adding paprika, vegetables, chicken stock, and ham.  But my husband never thanks me for these changes and most recently I stick verbatim to her recipe (just as she would want me to do).

Here it is (for 12-14 servings):
3 cups elbow macaroni
6 Tablespoons butter
6 Tablespoons flour
4 cups milk
4 cups grated cheese

4 Tablespoons melted butter
1 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

Cook the elbow macaroni according to package (about 6 and a half minutes for al dente).  Then melt the butter.

Add the flour to make a roux.
Add the milk slowly and allow it to warm up, but not boil.
Add the cheese and cook over medium-high heat until it is melted.
Add the cooked macaroni and (if you're clever like me) pop it into the fridge until you're ready to bake it.  The breadcrumbs are simple.  Just tear up some old bread, add melted butter and crumble all over the top of the macaroni.  Throw it all in the oven at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.  I use my big old everyday pan, but a 9 X 13 works great too.

Nick is frying chicken tonight, and although my grandma usually served this with a baked ham, I still think she would be pleased that her memories, recipes, and name live on in our home.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

I was missing Idaho last weekend.

                                       What you can't see is Callah's blue and orange diaper.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Baby and the Dog

Our baby sitter's dog politely greets me when I pick Callah up in the afternoon and then lumbers off to go about his Frank business; sitting quietly, laying quietly or standing quietly.  I don't know if he does other things, I haven't observed them.

If you come to my house you are immediately attacked by a 40 pound black lab mix who has zero regard for your personal space.  If you don't like having your crotch violently sniffed or being rammed in the back of the knee, you might consider sneaking in through the garage on your next visit.

We've tried training, rewarding, coaxing and spraying her in the face with water.  She just gets so excited when anyone (other than Nick or I) come to the door she can hardly--I mean--she literally cannot control her excitement.

In the same vein, whenever we snap Callah into her high chair Zadora will come running from the far corners of the house (usually her dog bed a couple of feet away in front of the fireplace).  She and Callah have worked out some kind of gross system wherein Callah will pre chew any foods with skins, remove them from her mouth, and slip them to the dog.

Other options for getting food are when Callah accidentally drops them or purposefully flings them.  The cycle perpetuates itself because both baby and dog get such pleasure out of their distinct activities.  Baby giggles with glee when dog snaps a cheerio from mid-air and laughs hysterically when dog licks yogurt off her fingers.

We've tried locking Zadora upstairs but listening to the pitiful whining (from both Callah and Z) is almost too much to take at a dinner table that is already distinctly less relaxing than it was 16 months ago.  

Before you have a child or pick a puppy out of the pound, you feel quite sure that your life won't change too terribly much, you feel certain that with a few firm words and lots of love you'll be able to whip any little being into shape.  But realistically puppies and babies are what they are--spirited, excitable, and adorable!  What a drag our lives would be without them.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


The last time I went to a Wal-Mart was a year and a half ago in eastern Idaho to buy sun screen for my brother's wedding.  That is, the last time before yesterday.
Where oh where can you get a button, baby food, a tea strainer and flannel jammies in convienent one stop shopping?  One stop was integral to my plan since it was about 1 degree outside.  So off we went to the suburbs.  Since there are no nice Wal-Marts near my house, a 20 minute drive was in order.  

It turns out that you can get a button, baby food and flannel jammies in one place, but you cannot get a tea strainer.  You can also get home and realize that your daughter's adorable Minnetoka pink moccassin is nowhere to be found.  

I needed a tea strainer, you see, because I broke the one Nick got me for Christmas due to my extreme tea drinking (see posts below).

I spent $50 at Wal-Mart, which I felt moderately dirty about, drove 20 minutes, bought the wrong size of onesies, was not successful in my tea quest and lost Callah's boot to boot.  

Back on went the bear suit, back on the hat, the mittens, the sweater, the boot (singular), and back to Wal-Mart we drove.  I slow rolled around the parking lot retracing my steps and low-and-behold there, pink and forlorn, was the abandoned boot.

Let's speed through the part where I stop my car in the middle of the aisle, dodge a great white pick-up truck (so many of those in the parking lot) and grab triumphantly the boot!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Real Feel -3

This morning when I took the dog out to the bathroom I wore Nick's rabbit skin hat, 2 pairs of pants, a jacket, a scarf and very very thick cumbersome gloves.  And I was fine.  I get kind of excited about extreme cold.  Nick and I agreed that we get a thrill watching the thermometer in our car drop to ridiculous temperatures.
By 9 it had warmed up to a balmy 15 degrees with sunny skies and we bundled Callah up and ventured out to Alterra, our favorite coffee shop for breakfast.

But, what to do with the rest of the day?  A picnic is out of the question, so I did what I usually do when stuck inside for any period of time: bake!

I made muffins, healthy granola bars and for the splurge, chocolate chip cookies straight off the Nestle Tollhouse bag with no modifications, oh wait, I threw in a quarter cup of whole wheat flour (I can't help myself).

 Basic sweet muffins with shredded apple, cinnamon and nutmeg.

My trusty assistant.
Next project toddler-friendly granola bars.  Before I had Callah, when I knew everything about raising children, I was pretty darn sure my future child would not be a picky eater.  I knew for certain that all you had to do was expose said child to a variety of foods and they would eat anything!  So simple I shook my head in pity and exhasperation at all the dumb parents who didn't know this.

Sigh.  Currently we are going through a phase in which we have regressed and eat only baby food (pureed, preferably from a jar).   And snack foods.  Puffs, breakfast bars, cheerios, graham crackers, etc.  That said I make it my daily quest to cleverly force her to eat something outside her comfort zone.  Even if it's just a nibble.  I found and adapted a toddler bar recipe from (playgroup granola bars).  The base recipe is great, it's just got tons of sugar which is silly and a lot more oil than you need, especially if you like flat bars and not fluffy pretty ones!   My recipe goes a little something like this:

2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup oat cereal (left over from when she was teensy-weensy, I am determined to use this up)
3/4 teaspon cinnamon
1/4 teaspon nutmeg
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup dried fruit (I had apricots on hand today) *
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup honey
1 egg
1/4 canola oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla

* I also threw in about 1/4 shredded apple, because I had it from my muffins) and a ripe apricot (because it was rotting on my counter)

 Ta da!! They were still cooking when Callah went down for her nap, but when she wakes up this will be her snack.  I have made them before using dried cranberries, but maybe used a little more sugar.  So this time I wrote down exactly what I did.  In my taste test they turned out really good, but like I said, they are not fluffy--more oil would help with this.

This afternoon we are going to hit up the downtown public library.  I wanted to do something with Callah to honor Martin Luther King Jr, so we will pick up a story about him and then do a simple craft project tomorrow morning on our day off.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Cup of Tea

So far the resolution I'm finding it the easiest to keep is cheerfully brewing myself a cup of tea each morning.  The tea pot belonged to my paternal grandmother and I think about her unconsciously nearly everytime I use it.

Overall I felt good about my week.  I whispered something positive to each student as we waited in the lunch line, of course some students don't seem to care (but maybe they really do), but some got a big grin on their face and perked right up.  Also, more importantly, I didn't lose my cool once all week!!

Monday, January 14, 2013

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2013 was to enjoy my job more.  So far 13 days in, it’s been a bust.  On Friday I left work with my teeth gritted together, my shoulders so tense you could crack an egg on them and my head pounding.  On Sunday night I sit here on the precipice of yet another Monday relishing in the domesticity of the weekend.  My house is clean.  The laundry is done.  I made low fat delicious apricot-banana bread, took Callah to the Children’s Museum and squeezed in a quick shopping trip for new leggings during her nap.  

I don’t delude myself that I could stay home easily, I need lots of social interaction to stay sane and being a full time mom would require me to have a social secretary worthy of the White House, but I can’t help feeling that I wish I had more time home with Callah.

The nature of my job--a teacher--allows me a couple of weeks here and there and an entire summer off.  So while I know some people have it better, I’m also accutely aware that many don’t have it as good as I do.  Yet I can’t help feeling cheated and bewildered and frustrated at the end of the work week.  There was so much more I wanted to do and I hate the feeling of gleefully checking the days off--that’s my life I just crossed out with a joyous flourish of my pen!

Without further ado.  My action plan for the remainder of January:
1.) Wake up each morning and steep a cup of tea.  Enjoy the 10 minute ritual.
2.) At work, greet each child at the door every morning.
3.) (Side note: we do yoga in my classroom each day).  When we say “namaste;” mean namaste!
4.) Stop grumbling under my breath.
5.) Think of one nice thing about each child every day and tell it to them.  Yup.  EACH. CHILD.  EVERY DAY.  Some will be trickier than others.
6.) Think of something nice to say to my assistants each day and tell it to them.
7.) Tidy up my desk at the end of the day.

I can’t be in two places at once and I think I resent my job a little bit from keeping me away from my daughter and my Kitchen-Aide mixer.  But at the end of the day, I am proud of my career and aspire to do it well.  I want to pass on to my daughter that not only do I have a job that pays the bills, but I have a job that will help change the world, one child at a time.
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