Flying On A Jet Plane

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In about 4 days, we’ll be sitting at the Atlanta airport waiting for our flight to board. I’ve spent the last week visualizing the carefree feeling of knowing that from that moment onward, the following 28 days will revolve around fun in the sun. In this carefree daydream, Parker is happily playing in the sand, I’m sprawled on a lounge chair sipping my Mythos beer and my only concern is making sure that our sunscreen is properly applied. Of course, before my lounge chair reality can commence, a couple of tiny details need to be settled. Like this.
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Except those two sweating souls will be me and the Irishman. And once we’ve successfully moved the entire house and finished off the minor task of unpacking everything, there’s still this.
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14 hours of flying to be exact. You know, no biggie with an active 3-year-old. Are you impressed yet by the power of my delusion? I’m sure that about 4 hours into the flight, I’ll be cursing myself for decided that dragging a 3-year-old halfway around the world was a good idea. But then. A day or two of jet lag later. There will be this.
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And this.
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And this.
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And all will be well again…until that cursed return flight to the states.

Beauty And The Beast

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Before we were the owners of two dogs of the same breed, I never realized how many differences could exist between two seemingly similar dogs. Sure, they both have the short dwarf legs and the huge radar dish ears characteristic of Cardigan Corgis, but the similarities between Nona and Chewie end there. In a nutshell, Nona is functional and Chewie is decorative. I’m sorry, but it’s true.
Nona is vigilant. Alert. Shall we say…militant?
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Even when the poor girl is yawning, she’s still scanning her surroundings.
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She herds all of the cats, children and Irishmen in the house and she’s constantly in everyone’s business. Yes, Nona, I’m talking about you.
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She would be perfectly happy on a farm somewhere herding cattle. It’s in her blood. This dog doesn’t back down from anything or anyone. Of course, I understand her militant, controlling nature perfectly. She get’s that from me.
Chewie on the other hand…
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…isn’t useful for anything other than companionship. Unless you consider eating all of the poop in your yard a useful habit. He’s a trophy dog. Very nice to look at, but not too bright upstairs. I mean seriously, the lights are on, but no one is home. Don’t get me wrong, he’s very sweet and loving. And quite frankly, he’s the perfect dog for a family with children because he’s tolerant of everything.
When we’re out walking the two dogs, everyone who drives by stops to comment on how gorgeous Chewie is. And it’s true, his blue merle coat and his blue eyes are remarkable. I think he was blessed with dashing good looks to compensate for his other…shortcomings. I know you aren’t supposed to pick favorites among your children (4-legged or otherwise), but at the end of the day, Nona is my girl. It’s our shared enthusiasm for rule enforcement that bonds us.

Some Things Never Change

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I went into Parker’s room the other day to check in on him while he was napping. It’s a parent thing. Even though he’s too old for SIDS and can call me if he needs me, I still have to go in to watch him breathe. Just seeing the rising and falling of his chest fills me with my own sense of well-being and I can go about my business for the next hour…until I have to go check on him again.
When I walked in and saw the position he was sleeping in, I had one of those moments where even though I know in my head that he’s closing in on his fourth birthday, what I saw was a sweet tiny baby boy.
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It reminded me of the scene in Father of the Bride when Steve Martin’s daughter is sitting at the dinner table and tells her family that she’s getting married. As you watch the scene unfold through his eyes, you see a 7-year-old girl sitting there instead of the woman that she’s become. Man, do I understand this now!
What’s comforting though is that while it’s certainly amazing how they grow and change with each passing month, it’s equally amazing how some of their traits and habits remain the same. Parker has slept like this from the day that we brought him home; on his back with his hands in loose fists. I can tell you that if I watch him for long enough, his left hand will twitch at the wrist, almost like he’s rolling the throttle of a motorcycle (which he won’t be until after his 30th birthday!).
Watching him grow up makes me want to hold tight to each passing day so that I don’t miss a thing. Now, please excuse me while I go and immerse myself in baby albums. Who knew that parenthood could make me so sentimental?

5 Guys Grilled Cheese

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Up here in the balmy mountains of North Carolina, we have great weather, beautiful scenery, great outdoor sports…and limited restaurants. Thankfully, I love to cook so that’s not a problem for us, but when we venture down into Florida, the Irishman is always interested in trying out new restaurants.
He had heard a lot about 5 Guys burgers, so on our last pilgrimage to South Florida, he insisted that we stop for lunch at the first one we saw on the trip down. Now, I’m normally a pretty easy vegetarian to please, but what the heck was I supposed to eat at a burger joint that served nothing but burgers??
I sighed dramatically and agreed to give it a try, so I ordered the only thing on the menu that I could eat. A grilled cheese. When I saw that they were making it with an inverted hamburger bun, I thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me. This is going to be completely disgusting.” But, I kept my thoughts to myself so as not to diminish the eagerness in the Irishman’s eyes.
Boy, am I thankful that I didn’t gripe because I loathe saying that I was wrong. And I certainly was. It was, quite frankly, awesome. I mean, who knew that an inverted hamburger bun with some American cheese, mayo, pickles, lettuce and tomatoes would be so tasty? Don’t get me wrong, it’s not exactly the nutritious choice of the century, but now I know that I have an alternative at cookouts and at home when we have extra buns leftover from the boys burgers and I don’t have a veggie burger for myself.
Oh yeah, if you want to make one for yourself, just butter the inside of the hamburger bun, invert it, throw some cheese in the middle and cook it slow and low (the only way to do grilled cheese). Then, add some pickles and mayo and anything else you have on hand. Those 5 Guys sure are clever.

A Moment 3.5 Years In The Making

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You may have noticed that Lulu Belle, our little blonde kitty rarely makes an appearance on this little blog. That’s because she rarely makes herself seen when we’re awake and full chaos rules. While Payton the Bionic Cat pretends as if the dogs and Parker don’t exist, Lulu Belle pretty much hangs out in sun room (which is inaccessible to Parker, Payton and the dogs) until everyone is sleeping.
Well yesterday, Parker walks slowly over to the kitchen and says to me, “Momma, Lulu is on the table. I think I can touch her.” This was a big moment for Parker. Monumental. You see, Parker has never touched Luna. Seriously, never. She usually takes one look at him and takes off. But, she must have noticed that Parker was feeling calm and her usual fight or flight reflexes were taking a break for that moment.
I squatted down and told Parker to walk over very quietly and move very slowly. No sudden movements kiddo. So he did. And he finally touched her. In the picture above, I love the expression on his face. You can tell that he is oozing calm and quiet. This more than anything tells me that Parker is growing up.
Of course, it was a fleeting moment and things are back to normal now. Lulu hiding, Parker chasing, the dogs barking, Payton looking for a lap to occupy…it’s the usual chaos.

Strawberry Festival

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Last weekend, we joined up with some friends and took the kids to the Darnell Farms strawberry picking festival. Darnell Farms is a working farm with huge strawberry fields and is situated right up against the Tuckaseegee River.
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There was a band playing bluegrass music, which is an integral part of the Appalachian culture in the area. In fact, the only two radio stations we get in the mountains are NPR and a bluegrass station.
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There were locals selling some of their homemade wares, like these bird feeders. I think they’re made out of hollowed out gourds, but of course, I could be completely wrong.
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There were teams of horses (and mules) demonstrating how the farmers till the fields. Again, I have no idea whether I’m using the correct term, but I’m pretty sure it’s called tilling the fields. I’m constantly reminded of how little I know about rural life.
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And then there was this guy riding his horse bareback. Yup, your face says it all buddy. You, sir, are a bad ass. How does one mount a bare back horse??
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Of course, the boys were not content to sit and listen to bluegrass music and browse bird feeder gourds, so we left and went to a nearby playground so the boys could work off their energy.
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Parker and his buddy Beck we’re having a great time with the Irishman watching them and snapping pictures.
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In the meantime, I had been sitting in our friend Christy’s car while the older boys played since her littlest guy had fallen asleep on the way to the playground. When the Irishman took this picture, he had just woken up.
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I scooped up the munchkin and went to find Christy (who had taken Beck to the little wranglers room). Let’s just say that the little guy was hungry and I did not have the working parts that he needed. Sorry buddy.
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Of course, 15 minutes later, the skies opened up and the rain that had been threatening all day starting coming down in big, fat raindrops. So, we all went to eat at a Mexican restaurant and called it a day. It was a lovely day.

Buffalo Chicken Strips

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In my husband’s perfect world, he would eat what I consider “pub fare” on a daily basis. Fish and chips, bangers and mash (sausage and potatoes), shepherd’s pie, Reuben sandwiches and buffalo chicken strips. Of course, if he were to get these foods at a pub, they would be fattening, greasy and sure to induce instantaneous heartburn.
So, being the kind, considerate (and controlling) wife that I am, I intersperse my version of these meals between the lentil soup and coconut curry shrimp that I tend to favor. It keeps him out of the greasy pubs around town when he needs a pub fare fix and I get to play around with new recipes. See? It’s a win-win.
I came up with these boneless buffalo chicken strips on the fly a couple of days ago when the Irishman had a hankering for them and I made them with the pantry ingredients that I happened to have on hand. Alright, here’s what you need. Oh, and I’ve given you two different buffalo sauce recipes in case you like things a teeny bit sweeter (version #1) or traditional (version #2).
For the chicken strips:
1-2 chicken breasts
1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbs. water
1 cup bread crumbs (I had the Japanese panko bread flakes on hand)
1/2 cup flour
Canola oil for pan frying (vegetable oil would work too)
For the sauce, version #1:
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup hot sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1-2 Tbs. honey
For the sauce, version #2:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup hotsauce
1 tsp. white vinegar
For starters, combine the ingredients for the sauce (for whichever sauce you choose) in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until your chicken strips are done.
Next, slice your chicken breasts into 1/2 inch thick strips. Then, put about 1 inch of oil in a large saute pan and get it nice and hot. You know the oil is ready when you drop in a bread crumb and it starts to sizzle.
Now, we’re going to get an assembly line going. We’re going to dredge the chicken in the (1) flour, (2) egg wash, and (3) bread crumbs in that order. So, I just line up my big soup bowls and fill one with the flour, one with the beaten egg/water and one with the bread crumbs. I generally will salt and pepper the flour since it’s touching the chicken first.
And we’re off! Coat the chicken with flour, give it a roll in the egg wash and then drop it in the bread crumbs until it’s coated. Shake off the excess crumbs and put it in the hot oil. Once you’ve got a couple of chicken strips pan-frying, let them cook for 3 minutes or so on each side. They should be a nice golden brown. You may need to turn the temperature down to medium after the first batch is done to prevent them from getting too brown.
When they’re done, line them up on a paper-towel covered plate so that the excess oil will drain. Once all of your chicken has cooked, go ahead and dip them in the sauce, put on a plate and serve. And that’s it! Making pub fare at home is a healthier alternative to the real deal and it’s also cheaper. Just don’t forget to tip the cook.