Saturday, July 24, 2010

Twelve years ago this morning....

I became a mother for the first time twelve years ago today, at 8:20 am, to be exact. Joshua Wesley entered the world and our lives have never been the same.

I remember everything about that morning. I remember waking Rob at about 4:30am and telling him I thought maybe I'd had a contraction. We tried to take a walk and didn't get very far (maybe 100 yards?). After some more serious contractions, we were speeding down the interstate and reached the hospital pretty shortly (I remember thinking what I would do if a police officer tried to stop us for would have been ugly). When we reached the hospital and I was examined, we realized that I was already 10cm dilated. Joshua was born about 45 minutes after we reached the hospital.

We had decided not to find out what we were having and when the doctor announced, "it's a boy", Rob literally cried while repeating the sentence. I had thought all along that we were having a boy and I'm not even sure we'd picked out a girl name. We knew that we'd name him Joshua Wesley, in honor of Rob's childhood friend (who married my sister, but that's another story).

I gained 53 lbs while pregnant and my first thoughts after giving birth (and experiencing the joy, of course) were that I was starving - like, I'd eat anything. I remember eating a huge bowl of cereal and then it was time to call our families. Because he was our first, no one expected his arrival to occur so quickly - everyone told Rob, "you'd better bring snacks, it'll be a long day". My dad was golfing, my mother-in-law was out of state, my sister-in-law was working, and my mom was at home thinking I was a complete wimp and she didn't know how I'd make it through labor all day! Everyone (except my mother-in-law, for obvious reasons) arrived at the hospital to meet our little guy very shortly. We all fell in love with him immediately.

Josh is amazing. I like to think he's inherited his sweetness from his grandmothers. He is sensitive, but all boy. He's a great big brother, but can be annoying [to his sisters]. He loves God. He's a great friend. He's a goofball. He's thoughtful, kind, fun-loving, cautious, smart, and adorable.

I realize he's growing up. He's taken to sleeping until 9am. He just opened a facebook account. He uses words like, "sweet", "sick", and "beast" (in reference to something that's cool). Sometimes, though (well, a lot, actually) we still see glimpses of the little boy we've known for twelve years. He still loves nerf guns. He still loves to play outside with his friends. He still makes forts. He still runs when he sees a chipmunk outside (after he grabs his bb gun).

It's really hard to believe that our lives were changed twelve years ago - in some ways it seems like we've known him forever, but time sure does fly. We've loved every stage with our little guy and feel honored to be used in helping him grow into a man.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summer Cooking

After a long respite in which I savored the cooking of others, I'm now enjoying cooking in my own (and temporarily clean) kitchen. The growing season is in full-force here and we are loving corn, peaches, plums, apricots, tomatoes, and green beans to name a few!

Yesterday for lunch we had the Pioneer Woman's egg sandwiches. They were very rich, but delicious.

The Pioneer Woman's Make Ahead Muffin Melts


* 12 whole Hard-boiled Eggs, Peeled And Chopped
* 2 cups Grated Cheddar Cheese
* 1 cup (real) Mayonnaise
* 12 slices Bacon, Fried And Crumbled
* 1 Tablespoon (heaping) Dijon Mustard
* ½ teaspoons Garlic Powder
* 3 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
* 6 whole English Muffins Split

Preparation Instructions

Combine eggs with all other ingredients. Fold together gently. Cover and store in the fridge overnight.

Spread on English muffin halves, then broil for 3 to 5 minutes or until hot and bubbly. (Don’t set them too close to the heating element.)

For dinner I made the Barefoot Contessa's scalloped tomatoes, recently featured on Smitten Kitchen. It was pretty darn tasty! I expect that from the glorious Ina Garten, don't you?

Ina Garten's Scalloped Tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups bread from a French bread
2 1/2 pounds plum whatever good tomatoes you’ve got, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup thinly slivered basil leaves, lightly packed
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high. Add the bread cubes and stir so that they are evenly coated with oil. Cook cubes, tossing frequently, until toasty on all sides, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper in a large bowl. When the bread cubes are toasted, add the tomato mixture and cook them together, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in the basil. Pour into a shallow (6 to 8 cup) baking dish and top with Parmesan cheese. Bake 35 to 40 minutes until the top is browned and the tomatoes are bubbly.

For dessert I made a peach custard pie. The recipe was altered from an "allrecipes" version and it was to-die-for!

Peach Custard Pie, Inspired by allrecipes

1 9-inch pie crust
1 cup whole milk
2 egg yolks
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
freshly ground nutmeg
sliced and peeled fresh peaches

1. Slice peaches into prepared pie crust.
2. Put remaining ingredients into blender and mix until smooth.
3. Pour custard over peaches.
4. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 for an additional 40 minutes, or until custard is set and crust is browned.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Our Exciting Backyard

Things became very exciting around here last night!

We have carrots and beets -

We have a fig!

The girls had a blast swimming in the little pool for about an hour last night, so cute!

Isn't summer great?

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Far-Away Dream

I love our house - it's small, it's old, it will always need work - but it's ours and we love it. It has always been in the future to renovate our kitchen, and as I see others go through the process and enjoy their brand-new kitchens, I become even more anxious. I thought we would be starting a remodel sometime in the next year or two, but our central air conditioning decided to finally die during a 100 degree heat wave. We were in Iowa when we received the news. This certainly isn't the worst thing to happen, and honestly, with electric caps "rolling off", we would have been smart to buy a more efficient system anyway.

We've decided to live with a few window units for the next few months and then invest in a geo-thermal heating/cooling system. We can't simply buy a new air conditioning unit that would retrofit with our old furnace, so we'll just start over (and scrap a kitchen project for now).

So, last week, I scrubbed my kitchen from top to bottom. I purged and reorganized. I used four magic erasers, disposed of four buckets of disgustingly dirty water, moved and cleaned under and behind my refrigerator and oven, wiped down cabinets, walls, and everything in between. If I can't have a new kitchen, at least I can have a clean one, right?

I also inherited some really cool things from two of Rob's aunts!

Polish it!

Love, love, love this platter -

A "new" set of dinner and dessert plates, a few bowls, mugs, and twelve placemats!

My parents decided to spoil me with some new pots and pans - courtesy of William Sonoma! They are amazing - stainless steel and made in Italy.

Lastly, check out this fruit bowl....this was a sink my dad made (and hadn't used) and it had been sitting around their house. It looks so amazing on our kitchen table with the "new" placemats. Can you even believe that glazing? It's so pretty you can barely notice all of the nail polish stains [on the table]!

My little kitchen is looking a little better these days!

Swiss Chicken Enchiladas

During our trip to Iowa, we visited Iowa City for the first time. Outside of Cedar Rapids, this college town (home of the University of Iowa - the Hawkeyes) is totally charming. We found a bustling downtown, friendly people, great shopping and adorable restaurants. We met Rob's cousin, Andy and his equally lovely wife, Jamie, at one of their favorite restaurants, "Mondo's Saloon". The genre of food was southwestern, the prices were astoundingly low, and the margarita's were half-priced! I imbibed in a pink grapefruit margarita - just the way I like them - not too much alcohol, a tart and fruity flavor, and ice cold. We did take a few pictures with Rob's phone, but they aren't really post-worthy.

Andy and Jamie had one of their favorites, the fish tacos. Instead of the usual tilapia, Mondo's combines salmon, shrimp and tilapia - coupled with a tomatillo salsa and cole slaw for topping. Rob ordered the flank steak enchilada, which included cubed potatoes and caramelized onions. I had the swiss chicken enchiladas which included spinach and a poblano-infused cream sauce and served on black beans. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to create my own version. Rob, chicken-hater that he is, actually really liked it. I haven't yet made it for the kids, but I'll be thrilled if they like it too. We don't have too many meals (except pizza and burgers) that we all love.

I would describe this recipe as a little labor-intensive, but it would be great to feed a large crowd or for a weekend meal when you have a little extra time. I roasted a whole chicken (mostly because I love to eat the crispy skin - don't tell anyone). I also used canned chipotle peppers for the cream sauce, for an easier version. We also enjoyed the last (?) of our green beans from the garden. It's been terribly hot here, and very dry.

Swiss Chicken Enchiladas

1 whole chicken
olive oil
smoked paprika, pepper, salt, garlic powder, onion powder
3 cups fresh spinach
flour tortillas
2 T butter
2 T flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup shredded swiss cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 chipotle peppers (canned in adobo sauce)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1. Roast the whole chicken. I cut mine in half and laid it flat, sprinkling the spices and drizzling with olive oil. Roast at 375 degrees for 1 1/2 hours, for a small chicken (about 4lbs). Shred chicken for filling.
2. In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Add flour and stir, adding milk and stirring constantly until thick and smooth. Add cheese, more milk (if needed - sauce should be thick by the end), and 2 cups fresh spinach. Remove from heat and stir into shredded chicken. I also added more of the spices from the chicken (to taste): smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
3. In a small saucepan, allow cream and chipotles to simmer for 3-5 minutes. Remove chiles or puree (I used an immersion blender - be careful!).
4. Assemble enchiladas: Fill tortillas with chicken mixture and roll. Brown filled tortillas in a small saute pan (if desired) on both sides for about 2 minutes each.
5. Place browned and assembled enchiladas in baking dish. Top with remaining spinach, cheddar cheese, and chile/cream sauce. Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
6. While enchiladas are baking, heat black beans in a small saucepan over low heat. I smashed mine with a fork for a smoother texture.

The finished product...well worth the extra time!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

We Heart Iowa

Rob and I recently returned from a trip to Iowa to visit family. During each trip we take to the heartland of America, I'm struck with the sheer beauty of the middle of our country. The pace is slower, the people friendlier, the land is flatter, and the traffic is non-existent. Rob and I do seriously consider retiring on a small farm in Iowa and this trip certainly reminded us of our dreams. I am rendered speechless by the images of black earth, green crops, and the sight of one farm for every few miles.

Interspersed with bucolic scenes are images like this

A community pool where kids ride their bikes, drop them and run into the pool (at least that's what I imagine happens, based on the image)- not worrying about locking their bikes or needing parental supervision.

A memorial that honors the military service of every member (alive and deceased) of the community (the names are etched in black granite).

Incidentally, this small town (Parkersburg, IA) is the same town featured on the ESPY awards in reference to the honoree of the Arthur Ashe award, Ed Thomas. This town of about 2000 was decimated by an F-5 tornado on May 25, 2008. The town has pulled together to rebuild, briefly pausing to bury their beloved football coach and mentor, and continues to move forward, in a exemplary symbol of courage. This is one of the many reasons we love Iowa.

Also, there is this

Many of the people we love, live in Iowa

lots of them, actually (this is Rob's moms family...most of them)

We had a great trip, lots of relaxing, and even more food! We enjoyed spending precious time with our kids, other family, and just had lots of are a few of our pics.