Saturday, December 22, 2012

Bedtime stories with a four year old

Every parent knows how little kids like to hear the same story every single night. Some parents luck out and their kid likes short stories. My kids don't like short stories. Especially not our little guy. He likes at least one, if not two, stories from A Treasury Of Peter Rabbit. [Sidenote, this was my absolute favorite book as a child. Oh, how precious I thought it was when he started to fall in love with it too! Now, however, I would be happy to never read another Beatrix Potter story for the rest of my life, and delight when he chooses something else at bedtime.]

And I can't just read the stories quickly; tuck him in with snuggles and a prayer, and go about my merry way. He has questions, and he wants answers. More specifically, the same questions (and answers) EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I kid you not. I nearly have our entire storytime commentary memorized. Its one of those things that I don't look forward to. I know, its completely horrible to not look forward to putting your sweet child to bed. If I were energetic and nice and other things I should be, I might look forward to it. But at bedtime I am usually crabby and tired and wanting to take a bath or read something grown-up or clean the kitchen or do laundry or or or or .....

Anyway. I know someday he will not want/need me to lie with him and read the SAME STORY and ask the SAME QUESTIONS and expect the SAME ANSWERS every single night. So I decided to record our nightly Peter Rabbit commentary, that way when he doesn't do this anymore, I can read this blog entry and cry and say ohhhhh why did he grow up so fast?!

I'm not even close to that point yet, as far as reading Peter Rabbit goes. But I hope you enjoy it. Nighty night!  Oh, and the parts that are quoted from the book are italicized. His words are in blue, to prevent any "who said what?" confusion.

"Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter."
He points at the biggest bunny in the picture. "Who's that one?"
"The mom."
Points at the right-most bunny head. "Who's that one?"
And the next: "Who's that one?"
And the left-most bunny head: "Who's that one?"
And the rear end of a bunny at the far left: "Whose butt is that one?"
[We used to argue over the butt. I said it was Cottontail's butt, and that Peter simply wasn't pictured because he was off somewhere being naughty. Little Guy disagrees and thinks its Peter's butt. I gave in long ago.] "That's Peter. They lived with their Mother in a sandbank, underneath the root of a very big fir tree."
"What's a fur tree?"
"Not fur, like animal fur. Its a type of tree called fir. Like an apple tree or a birch tree. Its a fir tree."
Him saying 'oh' is my cue that it is OK to move along.

"'Now, my dears,' said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, 'you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don't go into Mr. McGregor's garden: your father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.'"
"Why did she put him in a pie?"
"Because they caught him in their garden and killed him, then baked him up in a pie and ate him for dinner." [thinking to myself, this probably isn't the best thing to chat about directly before bed]
"Because farmers don't like bunnies getting into their gardens."
"Because they eat up the plants and mess stuff up."
 At this point he doesn't interrupt me for a page. Then, the next page:

"Then old Mrs. Rabbit took a basket and her umbrella, and went through the wood to the baker's. She bought a loaf of brown bread and five currant buns."
"Why did she buy five currant buns?"
"One for her, and one for each kid." Secretly thinking to myself, I'm sure Mrs. Rabbit is capable enough to bake, but she is a single mom of four kids, so instead of getting all hot and crabby baking in her sandbank, she loved the excuse to get the heck out of the house.

"Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail, who were good little bunnies, went down the lane to gather blackberries."
"Like us!"
"Yep, just like us." [in the fall, in the mornings after big brother goes to school, the little guy & I take walks around the neighborhood and pick berries.]
"We pick berries just like them. Why aren't there any blackberries right now?"
"Because its winter time (or whatever time of year it is where there aren't blackberries) and blackberries don't grow right now."
"Why not?"
"Because its not the right season."
"What's a season?"
"Seasons are summer, fall, winter, and spring. Different stuff grows during different seasons."

"But Peter, who was very naughty, ran straight away to Mr. McGregor's garden, and squeezed under the gate!"
"Shame on him!" [One time I said "shame on him!" after reading that page, and now EVERY TIME we read the story he reminds me to say "shame on him!"]
"Yes, shame on him."

"First, he ate some lettuces, and some French beans; and then he ate some radishes."
"Mommy, you forgot carrots." [apparently the things Peter is eating (are they radishes??) in the picture look like red carrots, according to Little Guy. I gave up arguing about which vegetable they really were a long time ago.]
"Oh, sorry. First, he ate some lettuces, and some French beans; - and some carrots! - .. and then he ate some radishes."

"And then, feeling rather sick, he went to look for some parsley."
"What's parsley?"
"Its an herb."
"What's a 'erb?"
"Its a plant you can eat; it adds flavor to your food."
"Why did Peter want to look for parsley?"
"Because parsley helps when you have a tummy ache."
"Because that's how God made it."

"But round the end of a cucumber frame, whom should he meet but Mr. McGregor!"
"Mommy, you forgot to say OH DEAR." [again, one time after reading that page, I said "oh dear!" and now I'm expected to say it every time.]
"Whoops, sorry. OH DEAR!"

At this point, he doesn't interrupt me for quite a few pages. I think the story gets exciting and he doesn't think up any questions because he's too engrossed in the adventure. But then:

"And rushed into the toolshed, and jumped into a can. It would have been a beautiful thing to hide in, if it had not had so much water in it."
"Why does it have water in it?"
"Its a watering can, for watering plants."
"Why did Peter go in the can?"
"He probably thought it was the best place he could fit in a hurry."
 He doesn't interrupt for another page, but then:

"And tried to put his foot upon Peter, who jumped out of a window, upsetting three plants-"
"Why are the plants upset?"
"It doesn't mean upset, like mad; it means they got tipped over. Upset is another word for something getting messed up."
"The window was too small for Mr. McGregor, and he was tired of running after Peter. He went back to his work." [Once, after that sentence, he asked "did he walk or drive?" I didn't get it at first, but then realized he meant, did he walk or drive back to work? I laughed so hard, and then had to explain that Mr. McGregor's garden WAS his work, so when it said "went back to his work" it meant he simply left the shed and went back to finish whatever he was doing before he saw Peter. It was quite the tangent that night, I tell ya. Super glad he didn't remember it and choose to ask it every night from then on.]  He doesn't interrupt for a page, but then:

"He found a door in a wall, but it was locked, and there was no room for a fat little rabbit-"
"Is he fat?"
"I guess. That's what the book says."
"Why is he fat?"
"Probably from always stealing food from Mr. McGregor."
"And there was no room for a fat little rabbit to squeeze underneath. An old mouse-"
Points at mouse: "is she old?"
"I guess. That's what the book says."
"An old mouse was running in and out over the stone doorstep, carrying peas and beans to her family in the wood. Peter asked her the way to the gate, but she had such a large pea in her mouth-"
"She had PEE in her MOUTH!?!?" Hysterical laughter.
"Not pee. A pea, like green peas, like the ones in the pod that you and Brother like."
Still laughing. "she had PEE in her mouth!!!" [seriously: every time we read the book, we have this conversation. Sometimes when I'm in a good mood, we'll laugh about it for a while and make naughty jokes about how much pee would be 'large' and how a mouse could do such a thing.]
"but she had such a large pea in her mouth [now, regardless of if I'm crabby/tired or not, I'm secretly trying not to laugh, imagining a large PEE] that she could not answer. She only shook her head at him. Peter began to cry."
"Poor Peter. Say it, Mommy."
"Poor Peter." Again, something I once said that is expected to be repeated every time.
He doesn't interrupt for three whole pages, and usually at some point during these pages has closed his eyes and started to fall asleep. 75% of the time, if I've made sure to read those three pages reeeeaaally slooooowwly and quietly, he will have fallen asleep entirely. But the other 25% of the time:

"Mr. McGregor hung up the jacket and the shoes for a scarecrow to frighten the blackbirds."
Mumbles .. "What's blackbirds?"
In my head I say "CRIPES!!" just like Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber. But out loud, I use my nice mom voice and say "Crows." I hurry to continue the story with no more questions so he'll fall asleep....

"Peter never stopped running
or looked behind
him till he got home to the
big fir-tree.

   He was so tired that he
flopped down upon the nice
soft sand on the floor of the
rabbit-hole, and shut his eyes.
His mother was busy cooking;
she wondered what he had
done with his clothes. It was
the second little jacket and
pair of shoes that Peter had
lost in a fortnight! 

I am sorry to say that Peter
was not very well during
the evening.

   His mother put him to bed,
and made some camomile tea;
and she gave a dose of it to

   ``One table-spoonful to be
taken at bed-time.''

But Flopsy, Mopsy, and
Cotton-tail had bread
and milk and blackberries,
for supper.  THE END"

[At this point I climb over my sweet lil' snoozing guy, hoist myself out of the lower bunk with only a tiny bit of difficulty, and go about my evening. Unless he's still awake, at which point I move on to The Tale Of Benjamin Bunny, and I won't even begin to type up that entire story with all our commentary!! Maybe another time...]

All images came from  this great website.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Butternut Squash Casserole

I don't like to cook. But for some reason, I really enjoy following recipes, prepping and chopping and mixing, and taking pictures of food. I think I just like to play with food. Maybe when I grow up, I'll be a sous chef or food stylist. But as my kids love to remind me, I AM grown up, and I'm just a mom. So on this blog I will indulge myself by sharing recipes and food photos (nothing fancy - I'm usually in a giant rush and have small people bothering me and honestly couldn't care less about the right camera setting). I know you're SUPER excited now.

Anyway. A couple months ago I was asked to bring squash casserole to a gathering. It honestly sounded super gross to me. Why is it called squash? Isn't squash such an unappetizing word? And I'd never made any kind of squash before. I found a recipe that seemed easy on my favorite ol' standby recipe site, The squash casserole wound up getting rave reviews. Success! So I made it again this past weekend. This time I was bringing it to a dinner for about half our congregation at my inlaws' house. Yikes!! I'm always nervous bringing ANYTHING to my inlaws', since my mother in law is an amazing cook, and its always nerveracking serving something to a ton of people. So I was a bit mental on Saturday. But thankfully it turned out and everyone loved it, even bringing it up again at meeting the next day and requesting I bring two next time so everyone can have thirds! I decided to share the recipe here so you can try it too - its always nice to have well-loved, much-requested recipes in your collection, and I am not a smug "oh that is an old family secret" person who doesn't share yummy recipes. So, here you go.

This recipe is not healthy. It is not Paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, or anything-else-you-can't-have-free. But it could easily be tweaked for whatever your dietary needs are. As is, its delicious, sweet, gooey, crunchy, and almost too good to have with dinner. It should be dessert.

You know something will be delicious if it requires these bad boys: flour, butter, and sugar!

Butternut Squash Casserole
(here is a link to the recipe - go there if you want a nice tidy printable. I thought about creating one myself, but the laundry is calling.)

1 butternut squash
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt
2 tbs flour
3 eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted

9 oz. package vanilla wafers, crushed
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar

Of course I had trouble right off the bat, both times I've made this recipe. The first time I halfed, peeled, and de-seeded the squash, diced it up, placed it in a large glass measuring cup, microwaved it til it was tender, then mashed it up. On Saturday I followed the directions on the squash's sticker, which said to slice in half, de-seed, bake in a dish with 1/4" water for a certain amount of time at a certain temperature. The squash was not nearly ready to cut and mash, so I then had to peel, cube, and microwave it like I did the first time. Lame. So, prep your squash however works for you!!

In a 9x13 baking dish, mix up the sugar, milk, eggs, flour, vanilla, and pinch of salt. This is where I like to have fun and make things look pretty. But milk and sugar don't make for a pretty photo, and when you have a 4 year old helper, things just don't go as perfectly as one would like, food-stylist-and-photography-wise.

Then add in the squash and combine everything really well. At this point I was quite frazzled and running late, so stopped taking photos. If you are eating this at home, now is the time to pop it in a 425-degree oven for about 45 minutes. If you are taking this dish to someone else's house, put a lid or plastic wrap on really, really tightly. I doubled the recipe, so my dish was filled to the very, very top, which meant it sloshed all over during our drive, and made a giant mess. (Sidenote: I received this awesome thing as a wedding present and it is absolutely great for transporting hot dishes, or dishes ready to be baked. But don't expect the lid to keep everything in, if you are filling the dish to the brim. Beecause it doesn't. My carrying case is currently in the wash. Better to wash the case, though, instead of the entire trunk.)

Oh, and at some point you'll need to mix up the topping. Smashing up the cookies is a really fun thing to have your kids help with:

Once the cookies are thoroughly smashed, mix in the brown sugar, and then drizzle in the melted butter and stir it all up really well. You could just eat this by itself, if you wanted to make yourself ill, that is. After the casserole has baked about 45 minutes and looks 'set,' take it out of the oven and crumble the topping on. Put back in the oven and bake another 15 minutes or so. You want the topping to be brown, crusty, and gooey (sounds appetizing, right?).

I am sorry I didn't get any photos of the casserole once it was finished, but we were at a hectic dinner party and I wasn't about to get my camera out and find a spot with good natural light and hold up a loooong line of hungry people. Just trust me that it is AMAZING and you will be the hit of the party when you bring this dish. People will be blissing out. You can thank me later! Although my mother in law is not thanking me. Apparently the bottom of her oven is covered in crusted butter which oozed over the side as the overflowing casserole baked. I told her now that I'm a grown-up I need large, JW-potluck-sized cookware, so maybe I'll score some for Family Day this year!

PS: Every time I hear "butternut squash," I think of a certain episode of Friends. If you have 2 minutes and 38 seconds to waste (which I'm guessing you do, if you are reading this), watch this little clip. Squatternut bosh!! Hilarious. Happy Monday!

Friday, December 7, 2012

What's up with soaking?

Guys: Why do you soak stuff?

Preface: I am not complaining. I am blessed to be a stay at home mom, thanks to my wonderful husband who is gone 60 hours a week, working hard and commuting, arriving home around 9pm. I do not expect him to do housework. He works out of the house, I work in the house. If you are a stay at home mom and feel like your husband doesn't pull his weight around the house, I recommend reading this and this, and you probably won't expect your husband to help out ever again. #donthatemebecauseimoldfashioned

So, having said that, I will admit to being frustrated when the kitchen I've already cleaned up once for the night has to be cleaned up again due to a second dinner being eaten at 9:30. At that hour, I would love to be hopping in the bath with a glass of wine, not cooking and cleaning all over again. So sometimes, being the sweetheart that he is, my hubby says he will clean up. I say thank you and proceed to go about the rest of my evening, grateful I didn't have to clean up the kitchen twice.

I like waking up to a clean kitchen. I've been flywashed that way. So when I stumble into the kitchen in the morning and find the dinner mess from the night before 'soaking' in the sink, I sigh.

Wha da heck is dis doin in da sink?!?!

Fiddlesticks! I would have been happy to clean up the second dinner mess the night before - like I said, I consider it my job and do not expect him to clean up at all. I do it for ME, because I'm the one who loves waking up to a clean kitchen. But he said he would do it, so I left the kitchen and went on with my night. Again - I'm not complaining. I'm not mad at him. I simply dislike waking up to a dirty kitchen. But I'm beginning to wonder: in the male mind, does soaking mean the dinner mess IS cleaned up?

As I type this, I realize I've never asked my husband about it. By the time I find the soaking items, he's usually walking out the door or already gone, and I would never send him off with a crabby word, or call him to gripe about dishes as he's sitting in traffic. Because honestly, dishes that have soaked for ten hours are better to deal with than dry crusted ones, so technically the soaking is helpful. ..... But why do guys think soaking equals cleaned up, job done? Did they watch their father "help" by putting things in the sink to soak? Do they plan to come back to the soaking items later and finish the job, and then get sidetracked? Or is their wife just so awesome and capable, the man knows he can leave things to soak and that she'll come back at some point and finish the job?

Granted, more often than not, my husband does clean up start to finish, which I appreciate sooooooo much. But he definitely also leaves things to soak on occasion (I did not stage the photo at top). So it gives me reason to wonder. Women simply don't leave things to soak, except in rare circumstances. But it seems to be a Universal Guy Thing, and I am curious about it! Can a male out there please enlighten me?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

See-thru pants: never a good idea.

I'm sick today. I've spent all day either lying on the couch or in the bathroom. Good times! So at 1:00 I asked Dax "should we go get some McDonalds?" to which he responded with a delighted "YAY!" Some fresh air and a car ride just sounded nice, and McDonalds always helps when I have an icky tummy. That seems pretty backwards; shouldn't it make my tummy worse? I don't think its a good sign that it makes me feel BETTER.

I didn't bother to change my clothes or freshen up. We were going through the drive thru, for goodness sake. 'This is Duvall, we don't need to be fancy out here.' [One of my most favorite excuses which covers a multitude of things.] We got to the McDonalds up on the Ridge, and I was just getting excited thinking about the tummy-soothing benefits of bubbly fountain drinks when I realized ....

The drive thru is closed. Arrrgh! They're remodeling the stupid place, and today of all days, the drive thru is closed.

Now, I detest eating inside fast food restaurants. I prefer to eat in the car, or bring the food home. Not sure why this is. Maybe its because I don't want to run into anyone I know and have them realize how ghetto I really am - "oh, I only come here like twice a year, really." Maybe its due to happy childhood memories of going with my mom to McDonalds for sodas and fries. We'd park in the sun to enjoy our treats, and visit or read our books in silence together. Yes, I'm sure that's it. Anyway .. my kids hate that I never want to eat inside. But I'm sure any mom understands how 'going out to lunch' isn't exactly a fun outing. Chairs become parallel bars for leg-swinging acrobatics; booths and tables become obstacles to race around; ketchup inevitably goes flying at some point. Not fun.

If it were a normal day, upon seeing a drive thru so rudely closed off, I'd just sigh with resignation and we'd eat inside. Today ..... remember that I didn't bother to change my clothes or freshen up? I won't describe my hair or outfit in detail. Let me just say I was wearing The Worst Pants Ever. Specifically, old see-thru leggings I shouldn't even let have space in my closet. With a top that did not cover the bum region. Panic! What do I do?! I cannot go in McDonalds wearing see-thru pants!! People will see my booty!! I am supposed to be a respectable PTA mom. I might see someone from the school, and they will see my booty.

OK, focus. Other options of where to eat ..... ?? Ha, this is the Snoqualmie Valley; the only other drive thru for miles around is Starbucks. I had that yesterday and maybe that's why my tummy is in turmoil. What to do!? Why am I such a loser who can't just fix lunch at home?! Why do I always get into these stupid predicaments?!

As I'm panicking in the parking lot, Dax is sitting patiently in his seat, wondering why in the world we aren't just going inside for our food, and finally asks me. I reply "remember Daxie, Mommy is sick today, so I don't want to go inside. I don't look very nice today."

"Well, let's go to Taco Time then." Four-year-old logic:  Mommy doesn't want to go in McDonalds. Where else is yummy and has a drive thru? Oh yeah, Taco Time!

Thirty-three-year old logic:  Hmm, Taco Time does sound good. But its all the way in Redmond. I will be the hugest loser in the world if I drive all the way to Redmond for lunch. Besides, beans will just make me sicker. Not to mention the waste of gas driving this stinkin' Yukon all the way to Redmond. For fast food. All because I am lazy and didn't change into non-transparent pants. As punishment, Self, you will go inside McDonalds and risk everyone seeing your booty.

Sigh of resignation. Maybe it'll be OK. Maybe nobody is in line. Maybe they'll be quick, and we can get-in-n-get-out. I put my brave face on and climbed out of the truck, at which point I found an enormous beetle-like bug on my leg, which caused some shrieking and flailing, which can't have been attractive in The Pants.

Get a grip! Go inside and get your stupid nasty lunch!! Oh look, there's five people in line. Oh look, every booth and table is full of guys. Construction guys, delivery guys, sketchy guys of all types .. now there's teenage guys right behind me in line! Nice! Please, please don't look at my pants. I promise I'm just a boring chubby mom with dirty hair, a stained hoodie, and generic shearling boots. No reason for you to notice me.

I swear I didn't read anything on that site - I'm not that big of a nerd, yet. They just had the image I wanted.

I tried to angle myself properly so my backside was facing a wall or something, anything where people wouldn't see it. A daunting task in a fast food restaurant. Remember, Self, this is your punishment for 1) eating garbage and 2) not changing into something appropriate for public.

We got in and got out. Mortified. I've become that frumpy, greasy, horribly dressed mom who takes her kid to McDonalds in her PJs with unbrushed teeth.

Things have a way of working out. I got an extra Happy Meal for Xander so he'd have a surprise when he got home from school. And do you know what he said when I gave it to him?

"You are the best mom EVER."

That's all a mama needs to hear to turn her day around.

But I am SO getting rid of these pants.