Tuesday, September 29, 2009

This is NOT a product review post, but I am in love and I thought you should know

I have two new loves in my life.  May I introduce you to the first, the Keurig, single cup coffee maker, otherwise known as Madame Cafe Au Lait:



This doll can make me one cup of coffee or tea at a time which means I can have a cup in the morning, a cup later in the day as a little pick me up, or a cup of tea before bed.  I had been making 4 cups in my big coffee pot first thing in the morning and never getting through them before the heater switched off...or ending up with a burned pot of coffee.  Madame Cafe Au Lait is a hand me down from my parents who upgraded to Madame's super special and high class older (and single) sister, Mademoiselle Cafe au Lait plus Sucre.  If I could hug my new coffee maker I would.  She's just that special to me.

My second new love is the Shark cordless handheld vacuum.

Why did I not buy a "dustbuster" before?  Was I dumb?  Missing brain cells?  Or, god forbid, CHEAP, when I owned two perfectly acceptable upright vacuum cleaners?  Whatever it was, it was stupid.  This little baby has made cleaning up after a toddler (helllllooooooo cheerios in every crevice), a husband (how do the crumbs from making his sandwiches end up in the drawers?), a very shed-y cat, and a dog who just makes a  mess by breathing SO SO SIMPLE.  He and I have only been together for two days and already my floors are less crumb-y because I can whip him out with no cords to fuss with which means no outlet protectors to battle with and eventually misplace.  He's easy and I like him that way.  And such a cute shade of green.

I honestly believe that it's these little things that make my days so much easier and more tolerable.  If I am to be in charge of this house, and this baby, day in and day out then I'll take whatever mechanical help I can get. Now, having written all this drivel, it's so obvious that I am an advertiser's dream.  If any advertisers are reading, I am available for paid product reviews.  I am not above that.  Nope, not at all.

P.S. While on the topic of products, remember my fiasco with the Little Tikes broken train set?  I sent the problem part back to them and they agreed that it was defective.  It seems to only be my set and not a whole product line problem which is good and won't warrant a recall.  And they sent a replacement train set PLUS another truck-type toy that Noah adores. GREAT WORK Little Tikes!  Thanks for the fast response and positive customer service experience.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Problem solved

I think I've found the solution to this miserable teething (aside from Motrin, yes we've bought stock).  I'm baking.  Muffins, to be specific.  Not that it helps Noah but it helps me focus my frustrations from dealing with a toddling, gnawing, biting, screeching, whining monkey-type creature all day.  So I present to you, my loyal (and beautiful) readers, recipes from my current muffin obsession. (My notes are in italics.)


Zucchini Bread (turned into muffins)
Recipe from my darling Aunt Norma 
Makes TWO (2) 9x5 loaf pans or as many muffin tins as you can fill


Ingredients
3 eggs
1 cup oil
2 cup sugar 
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 can crushed pineapple, well drained (I left this out because I didn't have it)
3 cups flour (I used whole wheat)
2 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 cup chopped pecans or dates (if you wish)


Instructions
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare loaf pans or muffin tins with non-stick spray or liners.
2.Beat eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla until thick.  
3.Stir in remaining ingredients and mix well.  
4.Pour into loaf pans or muffin tins until 3/4 full.  
5.Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  (Note: I checked my muffins at 20 min just to make sure since they're smaller than the loaf pans.  Keep checking until you have a clean toothpick.) 
6.Cool and serve.


Banana Bread Muffins (called Banana Wee-Eat Germ Muffins)
Recipe from Weelicious


Ingredients
1 cup All Purpose Flour (I used whole wheat)
1 cup Wheat Germ
(I used flax seed meal because that was what I had on hand and I think it turned out great and added nutrition...bonus!)
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
3 Medium Very Ripe Bananas, mashed
1/2 cup Agave
3 tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 tbsp Vanilla
1 large Egg


Instructions
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.Combine flour, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda, salt in a bowl.
3.In a standing mixer combine the 3 mashed bananas, agave, oil, vanilla and egg. Beat until combined. (I don't have a standing mixer so I used my hand mixer.)
4.Gently mix in the dry ingredients in 3 stages until just combined. Do not over-mix.
5.Grease or line muffin cups or mini loaf pans and fill 3/4 full with the mixture.
6.Bake 15 minutes for mini muffin cups, 20 for regular muffin cups or 25 minutes for mini loaf pans or until a toothpick comes out clean.
7.Cool and serve.



(I decided to try out this recipe in lieu of my darling Aunt Norma's because I wanted something I could give Noah without sending him up into the clouds on a sugar high (see Zucchini Bread and TWO CUPS OF SUGAR above).  The substitution of agave for sugar isn't entirely noticed in the final product as it's still sweet and delicious.  This Weelicious recipe is a formidable contender, but my Aunt's recipe still wins hands down.  Hers is below.)


Banana Bread 
Recipe from my darling Aunt Norma


1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, well beaten
1 cup mashed bananas (3 large bananas)
1 tsp vanilla
 1 2/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda mixed w/ 1 tbsp water


1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare loaf pans or muffin tins with non-stick spray or liners. 
2.Mix together dry ingredients: sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, baking soda w/water.  Add in oil, egg, bananas, and vanilla. 
3.Mix well and pour into loaf pans or muffin tins until 3/4 full.
4.Bake at 375 degrees for 30 min or until toothpick comes out clean.
5.Cool and serve.


Raspberry Applesauce Muffins
Recipe from Itty Bitty Bistro


Ingredients
1c. whole wheat flour
1c. rolled oats
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. brown sugar
1c. buttermilk
1/2 c.
 raspberry applesauce (the recipe used homemade but I subbed in store-bought berry applesauce)
1 egg


Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12 muffin tin with papers or spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Stir in the oats.
3. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, buttermilk, raspberry applesauce and egg.
4. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir until JUST combined. Do not over stir.
5. Divide batter amongst muffin cups.
6. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean. 

7.Cool and serve.


(Next time I would add some sugar or agave to these.  Maybe about a 1/2 cup.  As is, they come out a little blah for my taste.)


There you have it.  My solution to life's littlest problems.  Go forth and bake your hearts out my pretties.


(I have no idea why the spaces are so large in this post.  I'm not so sure if I like the new Blogger Editor if it does crap like that.)

General malaise

This is the current theme at the Smith household:



A little "meh" with a side of "ugh".  Noah's molars are still working their way down and causing us all a little pain.  We'll be back soon with sunshine and rainbows.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

14 Months

Dear Noah,

This pretty much sums up what we've been working on during this last month:


video

Today you're 14 months old and you have finally (FINALLY!) started walking. Every day you're becoming more and more steady and comfortable with being on your feet, arms reached high in the air. I love that this toddling is brand new...so shiny and fresh and positively adorable. From what I hear, now that you're "walking", everyday you'll become better and faster and soon you'll be running. I can hardly believe it.

Your vocabulary has exploded again this past month. Your new favorite word is "football" and only appropriate since your weekends are full of watching the games with your father on the couch. You're fantastic at screaming FOOTBALL (more like "BOOOOO-BAAAALLLLL") at the television screen, demanding that we turn it on. I'll have to make sure the DVR has at least one game on it at all times or perhaps you would enjoy a little ESPN Sportscenter?

Lately it's been high volume all the time around our house. You crawl from one room to the next screeching and babbling and yelling. But always happy and always cheerful. Except when I don't turn on "BOOOO-BAAAAAALLLLL" fast enough...I worry the windows will break with the force of your screaming. As your grandfather has noted many times, it's NEVER quiet when you're awake. And I like it that way.

You adore anything with buttons...both the kind you can press (the remote "MOOOOTTTEEEEE!") and buttons on shorts or shirts or pants. And bellybuttons. If it was appropriate I think you would be asking everyone you see if you can get a peek at their bellybuttons. Body parts fascinate you and you love to poke me in the nose ("NOS!") or mimic me sticking out my tongue. You're basically in a crazy exploring stage and can't get enough of the world, and people, around you. Every day you learn something new and so do I... I learn that I CAN love you more each and every day. Your enthusiasm for life is contagious and even days that don't start out well (thank you molars) usually turn around with a smile and a clap from you. And a "MAMA!" paired with a laugh never fails to make my day.

I love you little man. Happy 14 Months.

Love,
Mama ("MAMAMAMAMA!")

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

When you have nothing else, there are always bullet points

  • Well. I sure was the girl who cried wolf. Noah's not walking. Not really. I truly thought we had turned a corner the other day and it was going to be all systems go. But, no. He's done a couple of steps here and there but nothing where I can call up my mother and exclaim "He's walking! He's REALLY walking!" like some lunatic. Not there yet. So I'm still on pick up every little crumb off the floor duty and wash the cat hair off the hands duty. He just needs to be walking by Halloween because his dinosaur costume just won't translate if he's crawling. So we have a little over a month to get our act in gear over here. It can, and will, be done.
  • Speaking of the baby...I've discovered he likes Jazz music. Thank god for satellite radio...jazz on demand. Think he'll be sorely disappointed when we take him to Baby Loves Disco on Sunday? Or perhaps he'll break out some Studio 54 moves.
  • So we have this bar around the corner from us that caters to a rather interesting crowd...the type of patrons who may be missing teeth, enjoy being unemployed and happy to hit up the local watering hole at 8 am on a Tuesday. From the outside it's hard to tell exactly what goes on in there (no, nothing lewd) but when I see a handful of old men drunk out of their gourds sitting out front smoking their cigarettes I can safely guess it's not the kind of bar Tim and I would frequent. Long story short, the other weekend we saw two of these men carrying a third between them at 10 am on a Sunday, the third man couldn't hold his head up nor walk, and all I could think was that I am SO PROUD to know that my tax dollars are being spent keeping these unemployed men drunk at that bar. It's really all about supporting welfare and the neighborhood establishments, right?
  • Tim told me last night that he's going to try not to work this weekend and was it so wrong that I wanted to jump up and down and squeeze him? We haven't had a weekend without Tim working in FOREVER. I am inordinately excited and yet I have no idea what we should do to fill all that family time. Suggestions?
  • I've got nothing else. I would be surprised if you're still reading this.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Toddle toddle

He's walking! Kind of. He'll do about 5-6 steps and then plop down but today he walked from the dishwasher to the fridge, about 7 steps, all by himself! And without any encouragement from me. I'm planning to get this on video...as soon as I find the battery charger. Can you believe I am SO UNPREPARED? Shocker, I know.

More to come.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Product warning

**UPDATED at end of post**

This product, the Little Tikes Fold Up N Go train set, is not safe for little ones. The screw-on battery cover does NOT screw on correctly. This morning I found Noah prying off the supposedly screwed on battery cover and popping batteries in his mouth. Thankfully I got to him before he could so much as close his mouth around a battery but there is NO reason that should happen. I've written a complaint email to Little Tikes and hopefully they will respond appropriately and quickly.

Photo from Little Tikes

It's my duty, as a parent, to only allow safe products into my home. As of now, this product, or more specifically OUR toy, does not meet that criteria whatsoever. If you, or someone you know, owns this toy, be careful and double check the battery cover to make sure it is securely attached. I shudder to think what could have happened had I not been right there watching.

Update: I am playing phone tag with a rep from Little Tikes. So far they've made good on their promise to return emails/calls within 48 hours.

Update to the update: I spoke with a very kind rep who asked me to send back the defective piece for their inspection and provided this was a one time problem they will be sending out a new train for Noah. I'll keep you posted on how this pans out, but so far Little Tikes has been very responsive and I appreciate that very much.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Suburban farms, who knew?

**Warning: Way too many pictures of my baby directly ahead. If you don't like cute babies, then you may want to click away now. Don't say I didn't warn you.**

We spent our Saturday at a "farm" in suburban Chicago for a first birthday party. A) I had no idea there were farms in suburban Chicago that you could rent for a birthday party. Superb. B) I had no idea Noah loved animals so much. C) He could recognize and identify most of the animals we saw. Um, genius baby? I think so.

Noah and Daddy "petting" the cow. Or has Noah kept saying "Mama?" Only fair I suppose. He did think the gorilla at the zoo was his father.

Daddy: "Chickens BITE, Noah. NO TOUCH!" Noah: insert maniacal laughter here.

Walking with "Da".
I'll take a pound of baby, thin sliced, please.

Mama needs a tan.

Just, awwwwwwww.

Why won't he EVER smile at the camera?

Oh god, why didn't you people tell me about this grass? It STICKS to my fingers! Get it off, get it off!

Suffice to say, we had a marvelous time. And a marvelous, sunny weekend. I hear there is rain in the forecast so good thing we got our fun in before we get stuck inside. Yet again. Love you, Chicago weather, smooches.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Wee wittle wecipes

Have you heard about this website, Weelicious? Before I tell you all about it, I must admit I am no gourmet cook. In fact, I am very inexperienced in the ways of the kitchen but I am learning, slowly. And I really like cooking SO MUCH MORE when I am drinking wine. Regardless, what I am trying to say is that the kitchen is a place I used to avoid (unless there was chocolate cake) but having a third mouth to feed is forcing me to get comfortable FAST. Weelicious is a website devoted to all foods/meals specifically for baby (hence the name...delicious food for the wee ones) (I bet I didn't need to explain that, huh?). I don't remember how I stumbled upon it, but I added it to my reader and have been checking it out ever since.

Since Noah has been off purees/baby food for a while, I have been resorting to bite-size pieces of many "whole foods" and haven't been very adventurous in actually making MEALS for him. For example, a usual dinner for him would be a diced chicken breast, green beans, and torn up bread. I mean, sounds FABULOUS, doesn't it? Think Top Chef will come calling now? Doubt it. It's no wonder the kid gags on anything with a little flava (am I the only one who can't say "flavor" without giving it a little added zing?). I spent the good part of last week's naptime researching new foods to make for a 13 month old...foods that don't require an hour's worth of prep or a dishwasher's worth of dishes and bowls and knives or comes out of a bag from the freezer (I'm looking at you, chicken nuggets). And this is where Weelicious has really been a wonderful resource.

The recipes are simple and easy to prepare and (this is the best part) many of the recipes COMBINE the food groups so I don't have to think of three or four items to put on Noah's plate. For example, for lunch today I made Cheesy Quesadillas with Apples and Honey. I subbed in applesauce for apples slices, torn up sliced cheddar cheese for shredded, and regular flour tortillas for whole wheat ones (though that would have been way better for him) and in ten minutes I was done. AND HE LIKED IT. What I like most is that the recipes the author posts aren't complicated and are definitely not rocket science. I'm just not creative enough in the kitchen to come up with this stuff on my own so the fact that someone else IS, well, that works for me.

Tonight I made Baby Frittatas for tomorrow's breakfast and in place of the asparagus and sun dried tomatoes the recipe calls for I used a zucchini and tomatoes my mother-in-law grew in her very own garden (Grandma Mo, there is a little of your love in every bite). Again, not rocket science, but I never would have thought of mini frittatas for a baby on my own. And the leftover zucchini went to make zucchini bread (not a Weelicious recipe but it's for me, not the baby, anyhow). All in all, a big, fat smooch to Weelicious.com. Go forth, dear friends, and be inspired. Or kick yourself for not coming up with that website/idea sooner.

Update: The frittatas were given 2 out of 4 claps by His Highness and I think they would be much improved with cheddar cheese in place of the parmesan. The zucchini muffins, however, 4 out of 4 claps. With the amount of sugar they have in them, are we at all surprised?