Sunday, December 20, 2009

Adventures in cooking- Christmas candy

Every year at Christmas time I make a list of all the Christmas candies that I want to make to give to those who make our lives easier each year. Shortly after I choose the recipes I want to use and make the list, I give up and decide that its going to be just too much work to tackle. And so gift cards are then bought in lieu of Christmas goody tins. But this year, well, this year I didn't throw in the towel. Instead, I wised up and pitched the idea of an afternoon dedicated to candy-making to a friend who I knew just couldn't resist. So my friend Katy was generous enough to offer up her kitchen (a new swanky IKEA kitchen none the less!) and her help so that this year I finally was able to give Christmas goody tins to friends and family. Katy's husband is Swedish and it just happened to be Santa Lucia the day we got together so we started off our afternoon with some saffron buns and glogg (sp?).
Saffron bunsEmilia with the saffron bun that she made

Conner and Lizzie had fun playing with Marcus and Emilia while the men watched football and the ladies slaved over the hot stovetop. All together we made peppermint bark, haystacks http://www.cdkitchen.com/recipes/recs/857/Butterscotch-Haystacks127552.shtml, chocolate peanut butter cups www.marthastewart.com/photogallery/homemade-holiday-candy#slide_2, and chocolate covered pretzels. And I think all of it turned out well since most of the tins were empty less than 12 hours after presentation to the lucky recipient.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Uh, IKEA, I think we have a problem

Dear IKEA,
I realize that a mission of your company is to sell furniture and home furnishings at dirt cheap prices to global markets but I think you might have dropped the ball on this item. The hooded towels that I recently purchased for my two children looked so cute hanging up in the store and at the price of $9.99 who could resist? Funny thing happened when the towels were actually placed on my kids following a bath and I put the towel over the head to keep their little ears warm. I've attached a picture for you to interpret as you will but maybe next time you are designing hooded towels, put the towels on a model to ensure that your design is going to be interpreted as you intended. I'm just saying...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Who's on the nice list this year?

Conner and Lizzie both raise their hands to indicate their right for placement on Santa's nice list this year. May be the last year for a while, we are about to embark on the terrible two's and are super excited to get to experience it double!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Nice ass hooks

This past weekend we were visited by Grannie Elaine as she arranged a quick visit on her way back to Nebraska from a work trip in New Jersey. And of course Grannie insisted on spoiling the kids as all good grannies do. So we headed down to IKEA to pick up some Christmas present for the kids since its kind of hard to bring a play kitchen on an airplane to Nebraska! IKEA was great and I was incredibly impressed with the lengths the company goes to to accommodate families with children. We loaded up our flatbed with a play kitchen, a table and chair set, and a storage unit for the children's ever expanding toy collection. Then on Sunday morning a Mom recovering from too much champagne the night before and one patient Grannie put together all the toys for the eagerly awaiting children.
Conner and Lizzie loved their new kitchen. Conner first put his snuggly blanket into the microwave, probably hoping to nuke all the nasty things living in it. Lizzie liked pretending to wash her hands in the sink and using her new step stool to reach the microwave.
And the new table and chairs come in handy for eating an afternoon snack while watching Sesame Street. Seriously, have we reached the ultimate in laziness yet? Please disregard Lizzie's outfit in the picture, she was out of clean shirts at school and was put into one of Conner's shirts. And the pants, well, tye-dyed pants are standard issue at the Montessori school!

But my favorite purchase of all at IKEA were some hooks for the wall in the form of a dog's rear end. They were just too cute to pass up and I thought they would be perfect for hanging up the kid's backpacks on. Chris scoffed at them when I brought them home but then I hung them up on the wall and as soon as Chris noticed them he commented on the nice ass hooks. Indeed, those are some nice ass hooks.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Turkey, ouzo, and sweet pumpkins

Another year, another day of feasting and swearing that you won't eat again for at least two more days. This year I managed to skip one meal post-Thanksgiving before I gave in and decided that it just wasn't right to deprive my body when it was screaming for leftover stuffing and pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving for the sweet pumpkins and pumpkin parents was spent in Connecticut with the Hatzis side. It was great to see the extended family as we just don't make it up here often enough. There was ouzo, there was football, and there were plenty of recycled jokes to pass the evening by.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Happy Birthday Lauren!

My younger sister Lauren turns 19 today. Given our age difference I often find myself worrying about Lauren as a mother would. So I'm happy every time I get to hear her voice and know that she is doing okay. I am quickly finding out how hard it is to see someone who is still just a child in your mind get her driver's license, do her own laundry, and go off to college. I mean, who is going to make sure that she eats three balanced meals a day, who is going to get her up for class, and who is going to make sure she isn't taken advantage of? Yeah, I know, she is old enough to do all of those things for herself but I'm having a hard time accepting it. But today I will celebrate Lauren turning a year older and a step closer to reaching adulthood in my mind. Happy Birthday Lauren!
Love,

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Adventures in cooking- apple pie

A few years ago I began a tradition of making Chris a dessert from scratch for his birthday. One year it was an orange dreamsicle cake (akin to one of the layers of our wedding cake) and the other years, well, maybe this is only the second year I have made something from scratch. And while I would love to support the local bakeries around here and just purchase something handmade by them- you wouldn't want your husband to have to tell his mom that he didn't have someone painstakingly prepare a dessert for his birthday. So, this year it was apple pie- because I thought that was Chris' favorite dessert (until this conversation):
Erin: "I thought I would make you an apple pie for your birthday with all those delicious apples that your wonderful children picked from the tree for you. While picking the apples they told me how much they loved their dad and that they would like to use these apples to make daddy his favorite dessert, apple pie."
Chris: "Apple pie is my favorite dessert? Hmmm, I don't know if I would say that."
Erin: silence, no words. just a really, really dirty glare
*Chris please note, apple pie IS your favorite dessert when your wife is making it for your birthday. You've got the whole rest of the year before your next birthday to change your mind and convince me of what your favorite dessert really is.

Well, on to the pie. I decided to make the crust from scratch too even though I am perfectly happy with store-bought crust. But if I'm going to become a true domestic diva then I should probably learn how to make crust. I used Martha Stewart's recipe for a pate brisee (http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/ideal-pate-brisee) made mostly in the food processor and it should have been really easy. But, my food processor is super small (3 cups!) and I couldn't fit the whole crust in there. So I tried cutting the butter into the flour by hand (with a fork) and that was pretty unsuccessful so then I made the crust in batches. In the end it got overworked and formed too much gluten. The inside turned out well though and the apples we picked last weekend in the mountains were delicious inside the chewy and flaky crust. It looked fairly pretty too so I am not too ashamed of the finished product. But Santa please note, my Amazon wish list now reflects the food processor that I would love for Christmas!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Happy Birthday Daddy!

Thanks for spending another year of your life with us!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

It's the little things

This past weekend Conner, Elizabeth and I got to spend some quality time with Auntie Megan while Daddy was at a conference in San Diego. At first I thought that I would be totally bitter that my husband was in San Diego while I was back home with the kids but funny thing, I wasn't one bit jealous. Probably because we had such a great weekend! We decided to take the kids and head up to Asheville for the weekend. Between my sister (who is a vegan) and myself (practicing vegetarian), Asheville was food heaven for us! There are so many restaurants that provide non-meat, non-dairy options that at times I was wishing to become a cow so that I would have some extra stomachs to load up with all the available goodness. Plus the kids would really have gotten a kick out of their mom turning into a cow, one of their favorite animals these days!

Amazing food aside, the weekend was wonderful because of the little things. Seeing Conner and Elizabeth running around, exploring the nature around them was incredible. They are at such a great age where they can identify the things they have read about in books by pointing them out by name when they see them in the environment around them. Sitting in front of the fireplace each night without any way to communicate with the outside world was more refreshing than I ever would have thought. And of course, getting to share the weekend with my kids and my sister was the best part of all. Whether it was stuffing as many apples as we could into Megan's coat pockets and hood, watching the kids dance to music being played by a creepy old guy, or reading Goodnight Moon for the 145th time, a great weekend was had- but we did miss Daddy!
Enjoying apples picked fresh from the treeLizzie running down the hill Conner making leaf angels with Auntie Meg

Monday, October 26, 2009

I heart iMovie!

I think I may have opened Pandora's box and inside it was the iMovie software. This software allows you to make movies with sound, credits and all easy enough that I figured it out in less than an hour. And that was just making a basic 2 1/2 minute movie. I'm sure there are lots more fancy things you can do but The Amazing Race was about to come on last night and I decided to call it quits. So you're wondering, how does this fit in with the analogy of Pandora's box? Well, with my new fancy movies I'm afraid the requests for new movies each week are going to start rolling in from people whose name rhymes with T-Pain. And I'm just afraid that I won't be able to keep up- I mean I do have lots of pointless television to watch each night ya know!

video

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Adventures in cooking

Maybe it was the cool weather or the potty-training imposed house arrest, but I was busy cooking all weekend long! Many would groan at the thought of cooking all weekend but I was in heaven. And this weekend I made a few old stand-by's, but also ventured into making a few things that were way out of my comfort zone. First on Friday I made a seitan and lentil loaf. Seitan is a rubbery sort of food, intended to mimic meat. It is made from vital wheat gluten flour and water, so on its own it is high in protein, low in flavor, which is a pretty good summary of my seitan lentil loaf. I also had a couple of acorn squashes laying around and made this to go with the seitan loaf:
Acorn squash with chile-lime vinaigrette

Later that evening an intense sweet tooth craving came on and after sending Chris to the grocery store to retrieve much needed chocolate and heavy cream, I whipped these up:
peanut butter chocolate brownies

After spending Saturday trying to potty-train one little girl (with little success), I decided to skip any more potty pleads and spent Sunday cooking up some more delicious delicacies. First up was an old favorite, granola! I know what you're thinking, "Does this girl ever get tired of granola?"- and the answer is, no! I love granola and since my last blog about granola I have started using a different recipe:
I finished up the afternoon making kimchi, a Korean pickled cabbage type dish. I would love to tell you how that turned out but its still marinating as I type. Kimchi

And then, to please my little pumpkins, I made some mac-n-cheese for dinner. You might be wondering, "How does she have time to cook with two wild things running around?". Well, as much as I would love to say that I have superwoman powers, the truth is that I have a great husband who helps keep the kids entertained in exchange that I promise to let him eat meat every once in a while :).

I feel a change a comin'

Fall is here- hallelujah! Summer in North Carolina is great until about mid-July, by which time the stifling humidity makes you feel like you've been stuffed at the bottom of a young teenage boy's gym locker! The leaves are nearing the peak of their color, the nights are becoming cool enough to wrap yourself up in a blanket, and days are comfortable enough to allow lots of playing outside. A few pictures of the twins enjoying all that fall has to offer:

When Daddy's away....

We do naughty things- like eating peanut butter sandwiches on the couch while watching Sesame Street in our p.j.'s before going to bed!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A day without meat?

Happy World Vegetarian Day loyal blog followers! I know that I have been on bloggin' hiatus for a while but wanted to alert all of you to the holiday upon us on this 1st day of October. Oct. 1st is a day to put down the meat and pick up the veggies. I have been vegetarian pretty much since the kids were born. At first I did it to lose the weight that I gained during the pregnancy and now that most of the weight is gone, I continue to choose a vegetarian diet because I just don't miss meat that much. I have always said that if a strong meat craving comes over me then I will give in, but as of yet that craving hasn't hit. While completely giving up meat is a choice that most people don't feel ready to make, simply choosing to reduce your meat consumption has both beneficial health and environmental effects. So why not choose today to be one day in which the fruits, veggies, and grains take center stage on your plate. Here is a recipe for black bean, swiss chard, and acorn squash chili. I am going to make this tonight with some cornbread and if you're in the neighborhood go ahead and stop by for a bowl! I'm sure Conner and Lizzie would be happy to teach you how to eat chili with your hands.

Black bean with butternut squash and swiss chard chili (from Epicurious):
Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups 1/2-inch pieces peeled butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed, drained
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 3 cups (packed) coarsely chopped Swiss chard leaves (from 1 small bunch)
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic; sauté until tender and golden, about 9 minutes. Add squash; stir 2 minutes. Stir in chili powder and cumin. Stir in beans, broth, and tomatoes with juices; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until squash is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in chard; simmer until chard is tender but still bright green, about 4 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle chili into bowls and serve.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Aquarium!

While at the beach, we took a break from the sand and sun to visit the North Carolina Aquarium. Fish aren't really the animals that interest the kids the most these days, but they were excited to see fish swimming so close to them. Conner kept making growling noises at the fish since that is his default animal noise these days. Lizzie had a pretty bad cough that day and scared off a lot of fish (and people scared of the potential swine flu she may have been harboring)! And Chris and I both quickly learned of the finite limits to the attention span of a toddler. We thought that we would spend a good 2-3 hours at the aquarium, quietly studying each type of fish and reptile on display. Instead, we were in and out in less than 1 1/2 hours. The kids were really excited for the first 3 or 4 fish displays but after that, they really couldn't care whether they were seeing a shark, a crocodile, or a rare pigmy goat. So quickly we made our way to the gift shop at the end to pick up a souvenir from our visit. I was hoping that the kids would be drawn to one of the cuddly river otters, or perhaps a cute tree frog but of course, they had other ideas in mind. What they were most drawn to were the 4 ft. stuffed snakes (even though we skipped the snake displays because I just think snakes are gross) so now our house is shared by these two snakes. Conner likes to wrap his snake around his neck and we are working with him on his performance to Britney Spear's "I'm a slave.. for you". Lizzie likes to hug her snake and give it kisses, such a sweet girl!"Conner, do you see this Xanthichthys auromarginatus ? Isn't it amazing?!"Conner and this frog were BFF's by the end of the tourSnake lovin'Snake wranglin'

Beach babies

Though hurricanes and tropical storms tried their best, nothing could stop Conner and Lizzie from flaunting their beach bodies all over Atlantic Beach this week. It was the first trip for the twins to the beach and they loved it. Conner really loved the sand, even would roll in it to be sure that sand reached every crevice in his body. Lizzie didn't like how the sand ruined her pedicure so she insisted to be carried to the water each time. She did like to lay out on beach towels and anytime she can wear a swimsuit she is happy. It was quite a change from my previous experiences at the beach, which pretty much entailed throwing a blanket on the sand and rotating my body every hour to get all body parts done to a deep crisp. This time no sunburns were had and most of my time was spent picking up kids every time a wave knocked them down, finding the prettiest sea shells for Lizzie, and making sure Conner didn't eat his weight in sand. All in all, a great family vacation. A few highlights captured in pictures:

Let's go to the beach already!This look picked up a lot of girls at the beach!As soon as Baywatch introduces a child lifeguard, Lizzie will be their first pick for the roleLizzie caught up on all of her trashy beach reading

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Wine for my sisters

My friend Meredith brought me this wine the other night, and it was just what a middle child would love. A wine that bestows attention to all those women who feel deprived as a result of being a middle child.
And the label has a spot on drawing of the dynamics between the sisters. As you can see, the middle sister is much cooler and hipper than her other two sisters- something I am sure most middle sisters can attest to being a correct depiction. Well, this wine got me thinking, what wine would best fit my older and younger sister. Here's what I envision:

Older sister Meg:
A simple, yet sophisticated wine. It would have to be a red wine. And as I said a simple wine, no blends for her. Probably would have a nice balance between sweetness and acidity. And of course it would be vegan! And I would call it Karma Police for two reasons, 1) Megan really believes in karma, and 2) she is the only one of the three sisters who has been in trouble with the police (which is shocking if you know the three of us!).

Younger sister Lauren:
Definitely a white wine. And it would be a wine that surprised you upon first sip. I imagine a type of Riesling where you are expecting a sweet, syrupy wine but are pleasantly surprised to find it a bit dry and maybe a little spicy (a Riesling from Washington as opposed to the North Carolina Rieslings). And I would call it Karma Cameleon for two reasons, 1) karma matches nicely with the name of Megan's wine, 2) Lauren has the ability to easily blend into the situations she is placed into, like a chameleon (though I am sure Lauren has no clue about the song I am stealing the name from!).