Monday, March 23, 2009

New Pics

I have been so uninspired in the kitchen lately. I don't know what is the matter with me. Anyone have any ideas? Please send any suggestions my way. Until then, pictures for my family. It occured to me the other day that we have been really bad about taking pictures of the kids. When Sage was a baby we took so many pictures. There were fewer of Rori at the same age and now with Justus... Yikes. Poor guy. We've got nothing, almost nothing. Here's what we do have for recent kids pics.

More of Justus eating. He really does do more than eat although pictures would seem to prove otherwise. In case you noticed the hideously dirty windows in the background, we can thank the girls for that. They were "helping" me wash windows. And now I have a real job of it...

Here is Justus on the swing at the park, 9 months old.

Rori, dirty face and all, in the dryer. This time I was lucky enough to find her in her diaper. The last time I found her in the drier she had taken her diaper off and then had trouble getting out of the drier when she needed to pee. So, she peed in the drier. Lovely.

This last one I took today. I don't know if it is my computer but it kinda looks like Justus may have some liver failure going on as he looks jaundiced next to Sage who is so pale. He's fine. He is just tanned. We have been spending a lot of time outside lately. But now that it is rattlesnake season that is likely to change.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Things I've Learned Since Becoming a Parent

The juice from blueberries can be used as a wood or clothing dye. Make sure you get it right the first time because there is no correcting of mistakes. Rori has used this dying technique for several items with terrific (and permanent) results. For example, her baby doll. It is now a beauitful shade of purpley blue, head to toe. Despite me trying to correct the dye job in the washing machine, her baby is still purple. When blueberries are used to dye fingers, nails and lips it is also very effective although slightly less permanent with effects lasting only a week or two. If smeared onto unfinished wood it produces a gorgeous swirling blue/purple that absolutely will not fade no matter what you do to it.

I should find a way to market this dye.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Death and Geography

Well, it has been a crappy, crappy week to say the least. I got a call from my mom last Thursday night saying that my Grandpa was in the hospital again and not expected to live through the weekend. He has been in and out of the hospital for last 6 weeks with some regularity. I booked my flight immediately and left less than 24 hours later. I arrived in the small town hospital at about 4am with my 9 month old baby in tow. Grandpa was finally sleeping comfortably so I didn't wake him. I was back at the hospital the next afternoon and he was sleeping again. I waited with my entire family for him to wake up. He did, sort of. He knew who I was and who Justus was but it was really difficult for him to stay awake. He fought really hard to stay awake and visit and play with Justus. Finally, I hugged him and told him I loved him and said I would be back the next day. That was the last time I saw him alive. He died the next day, peacefully, surrounded with family and his best friend of 80 years. I arrived a couple of minutes after he passed. He finally looked peaceful. For him, I am glad that his struggle is over but for the rest of us, this sucks. I am so thankful that I was there for my mom and got to see him one more time. My last memory of him will be of him playing with Justus, making his silly faces at him, holding his hand, and making those funny noises he made when he played with babies. Right up until the end he was being a jokester. The day before he died he was sleeping intermittently and was kept company with a long line of loved ones. At one point he woke up to see several of the men in the family in the room along with my cousin Stacey. This group of people is particularly squeamish about anything medical. (Actually my cousin Chais said that just being in the room with that catheter was freaking him out.) Anyway, sensing his audience, he leans over to Yvonne (the wonderful lady who loved him and took care of him for years, never leaving his side) and says "I have to go to the bathroom." That apparently resulted in a stampede toward the door. I can just envision them all elbowing each other in an effort to get out the door as quickly as possible. Then Grandpa says "can't you tell when I am bullshitting you?" The last practical joke and it couldn't have been more perfect.

The funeral is tomorrow, Friday the 13th. I came home yesterday. I am really, really disappointed that I can't be there both for me and for my mom. I feel like I live a world away at times like this. My family will say goodbye and the grieving and adjustments to the huge vacant spot in our family will begin. But for me it feels sort of surreal. I am so separated and so busy with my life, grieving is different. After my Grandma died 9 years ago I felt this way. I thought about her a lot but she wasn't a part of my daily activities so it didn't feel real. Then the next time I went home and there was a big family gathering it finally sunk in. She wasn't there. I spent the entire day choking back tears. My family had already done this. It wasn't their first time. For me it was like she had just died. I expect it will be the same again. So tomorrow my family will gather to say goodbye, my cousin Jodi will give the amazing eulogy she wrote and I will be here, a world away.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Busy in the Kitchen Again

I have been busy the last couple of days in the kitchen. I wish I could say that I had recipes to post but I haven't been feeling too inspired. I did however make an unbelievably great beef stew last night. It was the best stew I have ever had. Ron however hated it. Why? you may ask. It had red wine in it. I wish I hadn't told him that there was wine in it because I am sure he wouldn't have known. He would say otherwise though. I coated the beef in rice flour and salt and pepper, browned it in olive oil with onion and lots of garlic. Then I simmered it in mostly red wine and some beef stock and several sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme. When it was tender I added big chunks of sweet potatoe, carrots, lots of quartered mushrooms, peas, and potaotes. It was so good I ate until I hurt. (Hmmm, why do I wonder why I am gaining weight?) As much as I loved it he hated it so I won't be able to make that again without lots of grumbling on his part. And since I love to cook for him I guess that means there is no point.... Damn!

This morning I had lots of bananas to use up so found a recipe on a favorite bloggers recipe list that used a full cup of raw almonds processed in the food processor and 4 bananas. Even the batter was good as the girls and I ate nearly as much of that as went into the oven. You can check out the recipe here. Scroll down to the Banana Spice Cupcakes. These were absolutely fantasic - and I didn't change a thing which never happens.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Back to Work

So last week I went back to work. During orientation I have to work full time. I worked three 12 hour shifts in a row. This time I am working day shift which is 7am to 7:30pm. Honestly, this week was ROUGH. For us all. Justus is still breastfeeding and since I wasn't around all day he had to make up for it at night so he woke every hour or less. This meant I was up at 4:15 for 3 days in a row and got to bed at 9:30 or 10:00. Starting a new job is always a little stressful in that there is so much to learn so by about 3pm I was on brain overload. I got home exhausted but missing my family terribly. I haven't ever been away from my kids for more than a couple of hours. As hard as it was for me, I think it was probably harder on Ron. He has never had all three kids to himself for more than a couple hours also. Additionally, Justus is teething and not used to not nursing throughout the day. I called him at 1pm the first day to see how it was going and there was a long pause before he said, "I am not cut out to be a stay at home dad." Uh-oh, we had just started. When I had got home all three kids were still up (which is nearly 2 hours past their bed times). I was stunned to see that the house was spotless and that the laundry was done. Not only that, he had taken all 3 out of the house, took them to the park, done the grocery shopping and did some clothes shopping for the kids. Now, that was brave. I HATE taking the kids out alone. Ron on the other hand can't stand to stay at home all day. He ended up taking them out for several hours each day. Unbelievable. When I got home on day two i think I walked in to the smell of PineSol. I was about to be soooo impressed although a little perplexed since he washed and vacuumed the floors the day before. Yes, he had been scrubbing the floors but it was not for routine cleaning. One look at his face told me there was a story. The toilet had become plugged and in the short few steps it took him to get the plunger, Rori flushed the toilet and caused it to overflow nastiness all over the bathroom floor. I am so glad I missed that one. Another of the weeks highlights, was Kiya our dog, chewing up a poopy diaper and spreading it all over my bedroom, then running off (she knew Ron was unhappy with her) and going missing for many hours. We found her when I got home. She had come home and was hiding in a closet upstairs. The poor thing was covered in cactus needles. It looked like she had lost a wrestling match with a cholla. So I spent the next hour plucking needles from her while she cried and bled. It was terrible.

Anyways, it was a long week. I am completely exhausted and really behind on catching up with friends and family. (Which is why I am posting this.) Oh, and why have I gone back to work, a few people have asked? Well, the hospital that I wanted to work for, like all other hospitals was hiring very very few nurses. I had wanted to wait until Justus was a year old before going back but when I saw the exact job that I wanted on their web site, with the right number of hours and the right shift I felt like I couldn't not apply for it since it may be a long time until that comes along again. So I applied and got it. I will be working on call, maybe 4 shifts a month. The extra money will be nice but the reason I needed to go back sooner rather than much later was that I have been so inactive that I needed to work some hours in order to maintain my licence. So there's the story!


Here is the dish we always have with the Cuban Black Beans. Nothing compares to it. Total comfort food. Definitely a must try!!


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup beef stock
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 cup chopped prunes
3/4 cup chopped pimento-stuffed green olives
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon capers, drained

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ground beef. Cook and stir until no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Stir in the onions and bell pepper. Cook until soft, then add the garlic. Season with cumin, chili powder, oregano, paprika, and cinnamon. Cook and stir for about one minute to release the fragrance. Pour the tomatoes and beef stock into the pan, along with the sugar. Stir the prunes, olives, capers. Simmer on med low for 20 - 30 minutes. Add vinegar before serving. Serve along side white rice and black beans.

Cuban Black Beans

There are some dinners that I make over and over again. This is one of them. I serve it with the Picadillo. I have served it to guests several times and am always asked for the recipe. I have also started to use the pressure cooker to do the initial cooking of the beans which works well. Here is the recipe without the pressure cooker.

Cuban Black Beans

2 cups dried black beans, washed
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
6-10 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 T dried oregano
1 T cumin
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 can diced tomatoes with green chili's
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
salt to taste
1 TBSP white sugar
1 teaspoon black pepper

Soak beans overnight. Drain water and replace with fresh water. Boil beans in water only for approx 1.5 hours until they are tender. (Adding anything acidic i.e salt, tomatoes, onions etc during the initial cooking process makes the skin of the bean more tough so it takes much longer to cook.) In a large pot add olive oil. When hot add onion, garlic and green pepper. Cook until tender. Add cumin, oregano, tomatoes and chili's and cook until fragrant about 2 minutes. Add chicken stock and cook covered over med low heat for another couple of hours. Keep enough stock in the beans so they don't dry out but not enough that you have a soup. Think thick stew consistency. When you are ready to eat you can remove the lid to reduce the liquid if necessary. Then add salt to taste, apple cider vinegar, sugar and pepper. Serve along side white rice.