Monday, October 27, 2014

Sausage gravy and biscuits

Sausage gravy

1 lb sausage
1/4 - 1/2 cup flour
2 - 4 cups milk
salt and pepper

Brown sausage. Do not drain.
Add flour and stir until it combines with the sausage fat to form a thick paste.
Add milk gradually, stirring to remove flour lumps. (There will still be sausage lumps, obviously.)
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve hot over biscuits.

Really Lazy Biscuits

based on "Really Big Biscuits" from this cookbook

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup melted butter
2 cups milk or plain yogurt*

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine dry ingredients.
Add wet ingredients and stir until well incorporated.
Drop in rough lumps onto greased or nonstick cookie sheet.
Bake 13-15 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown.

*I used yogurt once when I accidentally ran out of milk and turns out it adds amazing richness and flavor. I might do that every time from now on.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Seven Quick Takes: Apartment hunting, funny kid stuff, and giveaways

Scott had a day off on Monday. The first thing he did was sleep in; the second thing he did was wake up to find me getting all weepy because I can't handle my life on a normal week and apartment hunting was pushing me over the edge.

He told me to go take a nap and he would call apartments. I ended up eating lunch and doing some dishes first, and then the baby and I both took a nap from about 2-4. And Scott did call apartments.

He wins the Husband of the Week award for sure.

Apartment hunting has actually made some progress. We saw one place yesterday evening and are seeing another tomorrow afternoon. (These two are out of about 8 places we contacted this week; the rest were dead ends.) I'd like to look at a few more places if possible, but two is a lot better than zero!

Last night's apartment got put on the "definitely maybe" list. It's near the top of our price range, but it's a decent place and has an itty-bitty playground and is within walking distance of the bus line that takes Scott to work. (Which could affect our pricing calculations--if he actually walks to the bus stop that would save us a fair bit of gas money.)

It didn't wow me, though. The floor plan we're looking at has a really large living/dining area (which Scott really liked), but the kitchen is tiny (I wouldn't have thought it possible to have a kitchen smaller than the one we have now) and the bedrooms are pretty tiny as well. Plus the playground I mentioned above is RIGHTUPNEXTTO this little fenced dog-run area. I can just see trying to take Tad to the playground and having to spend the entire time keeping him from sticking his arms through the fence.

Language development update!

- The sign for "milk" has reappeared. It was super adorable the one time I was getting ready to nurse him and he realized what I was doing and smiled beatifically and made the sign for "milk" before latching on and nursing away happily.

Then again, he did pretty much the same thing when I gave him a spoonful of chili, so he might be a little confused on what "milk" means.

- New word: Uh-oh. I started saying this whenever he drops his food off his high chair and after a few days he started echoing: "Ut!" Then earlier this evening he knocked a book off the end table and said it spontaneously, and Scott understood him.

These are Buzz Lightyear jammies he inherited from his uncle.
He reached a somewhat more terrifying milestone yesterday: He can grab things that are hanging off the edge of the kitchen counter. I guess this will motivate me to keep up with the dishes so there are fewer sharp knives and breakables within reach.

Somewhat related story: This morning Tad woke up cranky and I still had to get breakfast together, so I tried standing him up on a chair (backwards, so he could hold onto the back). I had this idyllic vision of him watching me curiously while I chatted and cooked, all domestic-like.

Instead he tried to climb onto the counter, using the arm of the chair as a step. He was very miffed when I moved his chair further back so he couldn't reach.

--- 5 ---

Random things I want to remember:

-When I pull a hair out of his mouth (he tries to eat stray pieces of hair a lot) and he makes this adorable little scrunchy face over the way it feels.

- When he's sitting on the floor (legs straight out in front of him) and something interesting happens behind him and he scoots himself around in a circle using his feet in order to see what's up.

Now for some stories of my younger siblings, because they don't get enough blog time anymore.

My dad posts on Facebook:

Teresa colored a picture of me last night where I had green hair.
Me: "Why's my hair green?"
Teresa: "Because I couldn't find a gray crayon."

My mom comments:

Well at least she gave you hair.

He might need some aloe vera for that burn.

Later, my mom posts this:

I got our duffles down since Andrea wanted to start packing. TJ wanted to pack too. While I was helping her Matthew was fussing about packing too. I told him later and so he started to get stuff out of his drawers. Well he put one swim diaper his trunks and swim shirt in the duffle and declared himself done.

That's all an almost-three-year-old boy needs for vacation, apparently. (Notice how I refrain from telling you where they're going or how long they'll be gone or anything. Don't steal their stuff, internet stalkers.)

Now, if you don't mind, I would like to point you in the direction of House Unseen Found on Zillow's latest giveaway. Because if I blog about it, I might win stuff. And if you go over and enter yourself, you might win stuff. And if we don't win, at least we found out about non-toxic cleaning products for our children who like to lick the floors.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Pizza dough

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup very warm water (my mother taught me to use water as hot at it comes out of the tap, so about 120 degrees)

Combine and let sit covered in a reasonably warm place (so, not the fridge) for at least 1 hour.

Add approximately 2 cups of additional flour, kneading gently until just mixed. (Unfortunately, how much flour to add is something I could only teach you by feel. You want it to be soft and pliable but not sticky.)

Grease pizza pan with olive oil. Make sure you get oil on both hands.

Use your oily hands to spread the pizza dough over the pan. (It works especially well if you rub it around for a bit and then flip it over so both sides get oily.)

Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.


Bake at 400 for 12-14 minutes or until cheese is golden-brown near the edges.

Garlic-butter crust:

Make as above, except substitute 2 tablespoons melted butter for olive oil and add 1 teaspoon garlic powder.

When the dough is ready for its first bake, add a thin coat of softened butter. (I still use olive oil to grease the pan.)

Topping variations:

Cheese: Use tomato sauce and spices of choice (I use the same combo as I do for spaghetti sauce), mozzarella cheese, and a sprinkle of parmesan.

Alfredo: Use a half batch of your favorite alfredo sauce, mozzarella cheese, and diced chicken.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Seven Quick Takes: High needs and food

And here I am throwing out quick takes on Friday evening again. It's been a rough week here. I am not quite sure what's up; Tad has been chewing on his hands like there's no tomorrow so I'm inclined to say teeth but I'm not emotionally ready for molars yet. (I suppose he could be getting his canines out of order. Would that be better or worse than molars?) I also had somebody point out that there's a "Wonder Week" from 42-46 weeks old. Tad was 46 weeks on Wednesday (according to my Bump emails), but since he was early technically he's 43 weeks for WW purposes. That would make sense with his mood and sleep worsening last week. I am going with that theory because it means I can pretend this will be over in another 2.5 weeks or so.

Yesterday (Thursday) morning was the worst, with Tad waking up screaming at 4 a.m., going back down at 7, and then waking up *again* at 8. I had been planning on going to our monthly LLL meeting, but was feeling so depressed I almost skipped it out of sheer inertia. At 9:50 I decided we might as well be miserable somewhere else, so I changed Tad's diaper, stuck him in a sleeper (he had been undressed so he could eat an apple for breakfast), and schlepped down to the car. I arrived at the meeting at 10:05 (yes, it's really close) and literally walked into the middle of a conversation about how stressful and isolating it can be to have a high-needs baby. I'm definitely glad I didn't skip after all.

(One of the leaders said that LLL meetings probably have a higher than usual ratio of high-needs babies because their mothers are the ones who come to meetings desperate for help because their baby doesn't do what the books say he's supposed to.)

I was going to post a video of Tad pushing a box around the apartment, but I can't figure out how to make it not sideways, so I will talk about his language development instead.

Milk: The sign for this hasn't really resurfaced, but he has a "muh muh muh muh" sound that seems to be associated with "I want you to pick me up and nurse me."

All done: As I was writing this post, the baby was eating pizza. Once all his pizza was done, he said something like "gih dih" and raised his hand, palm up. (I wonder if the g sound is a conflation with "Do you want to get down?", which is something we usually ask when he's stuck on the furniture, not in his high chair. But he's a smart baby.) This is an evolution of his previous version of the "all done" sign, which involved smacking himself in the head. (And the associated sound is new.)

Mama: When I walk out of the room or otherwise am unreachable, he says "MA MA MA MA" insistently until I come over and pick him up. (This sound is distinct from the "muh muh" of milk, above.)

No: Another of his favorite babble strings is "nih nih nih nih", which seems to be associated with doing something he doesn't want us to do, like changing his diaper or strapping him into the carseat.

"Mama" is the only one that Scott has verified as being used in a decidedly word-like way. So odds are I'm making at least 75% of this up. But what's the point of being a neurotic first-time mom if I can't do that?

Tad is basically in love with Elsa at this point. I'd feel bad, but the 10 minutes he spent watching "Let It Go" on repeat on YouTube (while holding onto a chair and "dancing") turned out to be the only time I had today to stuff some diapers for him. I think he'd rather have a slightly rotten brain than have to sit in the same diaper for hours.

Plus, I don't think he really understands how screen time works. He gets just as excited about sitting on the kitchen floor staring at the microwave whenever I heat stuff up in there. Weird baby.

I've been working on a birthday/Christmas wish list for Tad on Amazon for probably four months (I like to plan ahead!) and realized the other day that it has 17 items on it. I was worried we'd look greedy, but then I sorted by price and noted that of those 17 items, 3 are under $5 (board books ftw), 6 more are between $5 and $10, and another 6 are between $10 and $20.

The only really expensive things are this block set and an Ergo. And the Ergo is just on there for my own reference. I should probably take it down before I give the list to anyone but my mother.

Food continues to be by far the best way to keep him entertained for any length of time. On Tuesday he spent literally a full hour eating an apple. (Well, mainly chewing off the skin and spitting it out, but it took far less than an hour to pick apple shavings up off the floor afterwards, so that was a net gain.)

Since I started him on three meals a day (did I mention that?) I've been trying to figure out a way to incorporate more vegetables. He ate frozen peas for lunch almost every day one week because I couldn't think of anything better. So this week I increased my crunchy mom cred by buying an avacado. I hope it keeps for a while, because nobody else likes avacado and he can't eat that much in one sitting.

I can't remember where, but I recently read a suggestion to use ground oatmeal as a substitute for bread crumbs. I tried this with some parmesan-breaded pork chops yesterday and it actually worked really well. I did not tell Scott about it, so we'll have to ask him if he noticed any difference from regular bread crumbs.

I've been sticking with my exercise New Month's Resolution so far. I did slack off on the water drinking for a few days (apparently that habit didn't get cemented enough in a month), but I pretty much immediately noticed the effects and got back in the saddle.

Even though none of my resolutions thus far have been food-related, I've been thinking about food more since I started. It occurred to me that I should eat more protein and vegetables (I eat about the right amount of dairy and fruit, and waaaaaay too many carbs). Then it occurred to me that the reason I don't eat more protein and vegetables is that they're much harder to prepare than the other food groups. I mean, if the time it takes to play through "Let It Go" is the only time I have to get myself a snack, I'm getting a bowl of ice cream, not peeling a few carrots or cooking up an omelette.

Maybe my resolution for next month should be to get rich and hire a personal chef.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Seven Quick Takes that get kind of sentimental at the end

I keep thinking of posts to write and not writing them. I have a housekeeping post (as in actual housekeeping, not blogging-about-blogging housekeeping) that is a little too involved for a Quick Take, I have at least two posts about PPD and related matters, I have a recipe or two I want to put up...but at the same time all this thinking has me too inwardly focused to write.

I have been keeping up with my September resolution to drink more water. I still don't feel like it's habitual. I had a good groove going for a while when I was pregnant and I'd basically get a snack/small meal and refill my water cup every 2-3 hours. Now I have a small needy person hanging off me all the time, so that kind of intense focus on my own bodily needs is not really possible.

My new month's resolution for October is to do at least 5 minutes of stretching-type exercises every day. 10 months postpartum, I still have no core strength at all and it's having a major negative impact on my ability to live my life and I'm sick of it.

The goal is only 5 minutes for two reasons: 1) I am that out of shape. 2) I get bored easily--thanks to #1, there are only a tiny handful of exercises I can do without hurting myself, and you really can't just keep cycling through those for 10 or 15 or more minutes.

Tad's interest in food is continuing to increase. I usually give him a normal child-sized portion (so, maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of an adult-sized portion) simply because he makes such a mess I figure only about 10% makes it into his mouth, so he needs a fairly big portion.

Lately, though, I've been having to clean a lot less off his tray and his seat and the floor. He ate pretty much all of a hamburger patty last week, and just today ate probably a cup of macaroni and cheese.

I haven't been obsessively tracking his eating habits for a few weeks now, but I might start up again--not to watch for allergic reactions, but just to make sure he's getting enough vegetables and things now that he's getting a substantial amount of calories from his solids instead of just using them as a garnish for breastmilk.

His eighth tooth is definitely fully out now, yet somehow he's still chomping on his hands and drooling all over the place. There should really be a break in between the incisors and the molars. I need to contact some kind of Mom Union representative about this.

When we move to our new place and get all settled and hopefully totally toddler-proof the bedroom, I am probably going to crack down on his sleep habits. He's still not going to cry-it-out or anything, but he desperately needs better sleep and the grownups do too. So, we're checking out all the No-Cry Sleep Solution books ever written and he's going to have regular naptimes and all of that. For at least a week until I give up and let him do whatever he wants again.

Speaking of apartments, we have called a few places this week, but for various reasons have not yet actually scheduled any tours. Next week I will be running down the rest of my list--as much as my socially anxious brain can handle, anyway--and hopefully we'll at least get some good leads, because hey, we're supposed to move NEXT MONTH. Eek.

(When we got this apartment, we toured it one weekend and signed the lease the next and got married the weekend after that. It was a crazy month.)

He still can't quite walk, but he's been making strides (ha ha) in the talking department. I swear he's said "Mama" twice, though Scott is not convinced, and his babbling is getting more sophisticated. Instead of just repeating the same syllable over and over, he does these long strings of different consonants and vowels--and his inflection is down pat. It sounds exactly as if he's holding a conversation, just without any intelligible words.

As much as the sleep deprivation and the continual crying and everything else get to me--there are so many moments where he is just so precious it makes my heart hurt and I remember why I wanted to do this. I sat down and played with the shape sorter with him the other day and it just blew his little mind that I could get the blocks into the holes--so he sat and worked at it for a couple of days until he figured out how to get one in. (At which point I applauded and made much of him.) I put on YouTube videos for him and he dances, swaying back and forth with a big grin on his face. I sing for him and he dances even more enthusiastically and grins even more widely. Because the way he delights me on my best days--that's how he feels about me every day of his life.

It makes me want to be better just so someday I can be half as awesome as he thinks I am.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!