7 Quick Takes, featuring middle school Sarah

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Lazy blogging returns. Thanks, Jen, for the enabling.

1. I feel like my dorky middle-school tastes are becoming popularized nowadays. For instance:

2. The Hobbit was one of my favorite books in 5th grade and beyond. I remember my friend Courtney and I reading aloud Gollum’s riddles again and again on the playground. Even though we knew the answers, somehow we got a thrill in re-figuring them out [and I wondered why no boys liked me back then]. And now it’s a blockbuster sensation [which, alas, I have yet to see]. Aaaaaand, I have been invited to a get-together this weekend, in which we’re all bringing food from the first chapter of The Hobbit, when all the dwarves show up and Bilbo keeps bringing out treats for them. I am so giddy about this, it’s at the level of ridiculous. I’m providing scones with clotted cream and raspberry jam; Ryan is bringing pale ale.

3. As a frizzy-haired, braces-donning, crooked-glasses lass I was also obsessed with Broadway shows, my favorite was always Les Miserables, perhaps due to my early francophile disposition [again, it is such a shocker that I didn’t have my first boyfriend until I was 17]. I read the book, memorized the two-CD soundtrack, saw the play onstage twice, watched a PBS version of the play recorded on VHS over and over and over.

In anticipation of the movie, I have been singing the songs for Philomena for weeks now. My voice isn’t much better than my prepubescent self [and maybe even *worse* somehow?], but Mena doesn’t know the word “stop” yet, so it’s really a win-win for us all. 

My gracious in-laws babysat yesterday, and Ryan took me to see Les Mis. Oooooooooohhhhh mmmmmmyyyyyy…it was INCREDIBLE. I know I have a tendency towards hyperbole, but honestly, it lived up to all my expectations, and maybe even exceeded them. I cried and cried and cried. [Thankfully, I have a husband who never is found without a handkerchief.] I may or may not have found myself singing a little now and then. I get to see movies in theaters so rarely, and I am very grateful I was able to see this one on the big screen. Even Ryan, who didn’t know anything about the book or musical was moved too.

4. I am glad to have found a boy to like me, who accepts [and perhaps enjoys?!] my dorky.

5. So, I haven’t done Tasty Thursday for two weeks now. Last week I took a bunch of pictures of prepping the dish, but then I just didn’t follow-through. Meh.

6. Speaking of food pictures, Ryan graciously went through and organized ALL of the pictures on the camera and harddrive. I broke down and just said, “okay, delete everything that’s of food, food preparation, or other random projects that never made it on the blog.” It was a painful decision, but really, let’s be honest, I’m never going to go back and blog about that vegetarian chili from August.

7. Later today or tomorrow I hope to compile a post about our delightful Christmas/Birthday extravaganza. I know all of you will be giddily refreshing this page in anticipation. Until then, a preview:

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[Update: apparently Ryan was upset that I didn’t include a *picture* of my middle school self. That kind of deprecation is for another day.]

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Happy 1st Birthday, Philomena!

I fully intended to write this post yesterday, because I had an abundance of free time amidst Christmas celebrations on two sides of the family and hosting a birthday brunch and dealing with a sudden bout of sickness. Instead, I just sat around and did nothing with all those unoccupied milliseconds.

Perhaps I’ll follow up this post with details of said days, but for now, I just wanted to say: Happy birthday, my Philomena Rose.

Christmas has always been about allowing the humble God-made-man into our lives, but now it has also become a celebration of welcoming our own little in-His-image baby into our family.

In the days leading up to her birthday, I was having lots of flashbacks to labor and labor and labor and labor and delivery. Many women say, “oh, babies are so wonderful that you forget the pain of childbirth.” This is not true. Not true at all.

However, it is true that the joy of this moment…

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…infinitely exceeds the hurt and fear of all the moments prior.

Some of our first pictures with her in the hospital sum up Ryan and my personalities perfectly.

“Do NOT take a picture of me until I’ve had a shower and put on a little make-up!” :

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“I don’t want to clean up before getting my picture taken, so I can always remember the ‘realness’ of the moment.” :

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Philomena, you bring more joy to our lives than I ever thought possible. You break open my very being to love in ways I never knew existed. I can’t wait for your happy, attention-loving, curious, affectionate, stubborn personality to develop even more.

Okay, enough of the verbal gushing. It doesn’t suit me. Instead, I’ll let some pictures of her over this year melt your hearts: [Note: pretty much 99% of these were taken by Ryan.]

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“Again and again it astonishes us that God makes himself a child so that we may love him, so that we may dare to love him, and as a child trustingly lets himself be taken into our arms. It is as if God were saying: I know that my glory frightens you, and that you are trying to assert yourself in the face of my grandeur. So now I am coming to you as a child, so that you can accept me and love me.” – Pope Benedict XVI

p.s. Merry Christmas!

meal plan: week of December 17

Monday- once again soup from the depths of the freezer with some type of bread.

Tuesday- crockpot tikki masala with salad

Wednesday- family dinner

Thursday- pan-fried hamburgers with sweet potato fries

Friday- stuffed shells with ricotta and spinach (inspiration here)

Saturday- black bean and rice burritos; some kind of roasted veggie on the side

 

the apple is far from the tree (thankfully)

[Note: you might want to grab a glass of wine to go along with all the cheese in this post. My apologies.]

I have a lot of faults. A lot.

One of the major ones is that I am not, absolutely positively, NOT a morning person. Yes, yes I know that pretty much everyone has declared that at one time or another, but I can guarantee that your distaste of getting out of bed is absolutely nothing to my pure loathing of it. To me, waking up is the worst. thing. ever. And I hate to admit it, but I am a mean, grumbly, selfish person when I first get up. As I’ve matured [ha!], it’s gotten a *little* better than in high school and college, but not much. Thankfully, I have an extremely patient husband and a baby who lets me sleep in a little and be kinda hazy while we interact in the morning.

Speaking of Philomena, she is completely the opposite. She wakes up in the morning and from naps a giggling, smiling delight. Very very rarely does she emerge from slumber crying. Usually her attitude is akin to something like this (bedhead and all):

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Another one of my tragic downfalls is that I am very awkward with friendly physical affection. In other words, I am not a “hug-y” person. At all. It’s not as if I am an emotional robot [quite the contrary], but I have never been one of those people to just go up to a friend and give a hug or an arm around the shoulder or a pat on the back or that weird arm-rub thing some people have mastered. More than one person has informed me that I am a “bad” hugger. It’s pretty pathetic not to have mastered a basic form of human interaction.

Philomena, on the the other hand, is sooooo incredibly affectionate. I am sure this is part of her developmental phase, but over the past few months, it has switched from us giving HER affection to her giving it to US. All of the cuddling, pats on the back, and hugs that she initiates have been one of the most beautiful stages of motherhood thus far.

The other day when I heard Mena awake from her nap, and I went upstairs to check on her, she greeted me with the most ridiculous full-face smile she could muster, accompanied by squeals of excitement. As soon as I picked her up, she immediately held me tightly, patted my shoulder, and nuzzled her head into me. She stayed this way for a solid 5 or more minutes. Every once in a while, she would lift her head to gaze at me and give me a big grin. Not going to lie, this melted my heart and brought a couple tears to my eyes.

As I was holding her (or rather she was holding me), I realized how grateful I was that she hasn’t yet modeled some of my flaws. And maybe, just maybe, she won’t. Perhaps she won’t inherit my incessant lateness, or my chronic procrastination, or my incomprehensively-fast talking, or my uncanny habit of filling up on chips and salsa before the meal comes each and every time I go to a Mexican restaurant.

However, if she does end up acquiring some of these downfalls, I pray she might have a little baby someday to teach her just how great waking up and hugs truly can be.

7 Quick Takes, another Non-Themed Edition

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Joining Jen to take 7 somewhat quickly.

1. This incident just occurred an hour ago, so the pain still stings. Those catechetics people out there will understand the tragedy:

Philomena and Catechism

The cover was barely hanging on, but it had made it through 10! years! – college, a year in Belize, 8 years of full-time teaching, countless retreats and talks and events, two post-graduate degrees. And now a little not-even-one-year-old tore my Catechism apart. Sigh.

At least she was cute while doing it.

New stage in life, eh?

2. Speaking of a new stage in life, I stumbled upon this oldie but goodie the other day, and I’ve returned to it many times throughout the week. [Related, if you’re not reading Carrots for Michaelmas, you need to be.] Honestly, the author had me at “Wendell Berry,” of course, but her insights are noteworthy too. I’ll admit that I can be susceptible to internal lies of “not contributing” (financially, especially) to our little family. I know Ryan is thankful for what I do each day, and he is relentless in reminding me of said gratitude, but I still sometimes have the inner-struggle of not “accomplishing” much from day to day. When meeting people for the first time, and they ask what I do, I find myself quick to follow up “I stay at home” with “oh! but I work part of one day a week too!” Ha. Yes, as the post echoes, I need not define “what I do” for the family as merely the few hours I work outside the home.

3. Tomorrow (December 16) is the one-year anniversary of Philomena’s due date. Oh, ha ha ha ha! Those hilarious “due dates.” As most of you know, she took her sweet time coming out and waited until early Christmas morning. That said, I keep having flashbacks to my major-preggo self, and I am soooooooo glad to be on this side of pregnancy.

4. Ryan finished yet another semester of working towards his second degree. These past few months have been tough, and I am seriously proud of him. Sometimes the reality that at this rate he has almost *five years* still to go can be overwhelming, but we’re just taking it a semester at a time. On the plus side, Philomena might be able to actually read his diploma by the time he receives it.

5. I know I keep bringing it up, but oh my, Parenthood once again provided many tearjerking moments this week. I don’t know what it is about this show this season, but it is by far my favorite thing on television right now. And Josh Ritter was great, but [I can’t believe I’m saying this!!] I’m looking forward to seeing more of Ray Ramano’s character. Although I’ll miss Luke Cafferty Ryan the soldier, I am proud of Amber for breaking the cycle of co-dependency.

6. My house still smells like onions, an awesome/gross reality. It reminds me of one time when hours after I cooked a delightful dinner, Ryan said our house smelled like “the international wing of a dorm.” Indeed.

7. I’ve been treating myself to homemade peppermint mochas lately. This morning I finally measured what I do, so I could share with you, dear readers.

Peppermint Mocha

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Heat a 1/2 cup of milk with 1/4 teaspoon unsweetened baking cocoa and 1 to 2 teaspoons maple syrup or agave nectar. Mix with 3/4 to 1 cup espresso or strongly brewed coffee (depending upon if you want it more coffee-y or milk-y). Add JUST A DROP of peppermint extract. You can always add more, but start with *way less* than you think you need.

Obviously, the recipe can be easily doubled, etc.

recipe: French Onion Soup with homemade Croutons {Tasty Thursday}

French Onion Soup with Homemade CroutonsTonight I’m going to a gathering/recipe exchange in which we were encouraged to bring a dish that reminds us of the holidays. Usually this would mean sweet goodies or hot chocolate or the like. However, I’ll admit the first thing that came to mind was my mom’s French Onion Soup.

She’s a little hazy on details regarding how the tradition began, but either before I was born or shortly thereafter she began making this soup every Christmas Eve. Accompanying it is always a wide range of deli-sliced meats, cheeses, condiments, and rolls for sandwiches. Regarding the sandwich tradition, it began because deli-sliced meat was only available at a couple specialty stores in town, so it was a “special treat” for Christmas, in that it required enough forethought to be purposeful, but easy enough so as to not interrupt all the Christmas brunch preparations. Even now, when deli meats are available at every grocery store [and most likely chock-full of nitrates and other delights], we still keep that tradition alive.

Back to the soup. I’ll admit that growing up I strongly disliked it; I’d turn my nose up at the ladle every Christmas Eve. That is, until college, when I went to Paris. There I was at a delightful little restaurant in the Latin Quarter, and our meals had already been ordered for everyone in the group. The first course was Onion Soup. My initial reaction was eyeroll, but then I decided to be bold and try it. And it was perfect. Salty, deep, with oozy cheese at the bottom. Certainly my mother’s soup couldn’t be this good.

So, the following Christmas Eve I tried hers. My oh my. It transported me right back to that Parisian restaurant. I was hooked.

The best part about this recipe is that it is literally five ingredients and mostly hands-off all day. Admittedly, it is a very simple soup, so it probably isn’t a main dish, but it’s a perfect first course.

All you need is:

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[I pictured the wine in a glass for stylistic purposes, certainly not because I didn’t want you to know it came from a box. ;) ]

Regarding the cartons in that last picture, I am a wee bit embarrassed to show them to you. Yes, I know the incredible health benefits of homemade stock (see here and here and here), and I even have beef bones in my freezer. However, it’s been a busy week, and I just didn’t have the wherewithal to make real broth. So there. I am sure you all understand.

The method is just as simple as the ingredients:

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French Onion Soup

Ingredients

6 to 8 medium yellow onions

6 Tablespoons butter [I prefer salted]

2 Tablespoons flour

1/2 cup red wine [I happened to use a Malbec, but really anything would work]

3 quarts beef broth [feel free to use beef bouillon in water too]

Croutons for serving (recipe below)

Cubes of cheese for serving [traditionally it is Swiss or gruyere, but I always use mozarella]

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 250.

2. Peel the onions, cut in half, slice thinly. [In the picture above, my slices are probably a little too thick.]

3. Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat. [It is preferable to use a pan that can transfer from the stove to the oven, like a Dutch oven or a roasting pan, but that isn’t necessary. You’ll just have the messy job of pouring the soup into a different pan for the oven.]

4. Saute the onion slices until limp and transparent. Stir in the flour and simmer for two minutes.

5. Pour in the wine and broth.

6. Cover and bake the soup for 3 to 8 hours. Stir occasionally. The longer the soup bakes, the browner (more toasted) it becomes. Thus, I recommend as close to the 8 hours as possible.

7. Serve very hot with small cubes of cheese and croutons.

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Croutons

Ingredients

5 to 6 cups of cubed bread

3 to 4 Tablespoons butter (I prefer salted)

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 to 1/8 teaspoon dried parsley

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Melt the butter, then stir in the salt, garlic powder, and parsley.

3. Slowly pour the butter mixture over the bread cubes while mixing to coat well. [You can taste one at this point to see if you need more butter and/or seasoning.]

4. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spread the coated bread evenly onto the sheet.

5. Bake for 13 to 16 minutes, until browned and toasted.

meal plan: week of December 10

I’m feeling a little “behind” this week, so the theme of these meals is easy, easy, easy- so I can use the extra time to play catch-up.

Monday- soup from the freezer with rolls and green beans

Tuesday- meatball subs from the freezer with salad

Wednesday- chicken and dumplings. I’m going to try something similar to this recipe, but I already have cooked chicken (in the freezer, of course).

Thursday- sweet potato shepherd’s pie (inspiration here)

Friday- French Onion Soup (recipe forthcoming) and homemade macaroni and cheese

Saturday- out to dinner to celebrate Ryan’s completion of another tough semester