Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice. Or Not.

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On the morning before Thanksgiving, I had my “big” ultrasound done. The main purpose of this ultrasound was to make sure that the baby was progressing normally and that all parts of the anatomy were sound (4 chambers of the heart, proper placement of kidneys and diaphragm, two well-formed hemispheres of the brain, etc…) As a bonus, this is also the time that you get to find out the sex of the baby. Of course, the baby has to cooperate in order for this to occur and our little peanut did not want to do that for the first 30 minutes or so.
Eventually though (after much poking and prodding by the ultrasound tech), the baby flipped around and we were told that there is about a 90% likelihood that our baby is a girl. While the tech didn’t get the direct “money shot” that she would have liked, there definitely did not appear to be the presence of boy parts at any point in time. So, wow. A girl.
To be honest with you, my first surge of emotion was excitement, followed (very) closely by something akin to panic. I know this sounds nuts since I am girl, but I don’t know what to do with a girl child. I’ve spent the last 4 years as a boy’s mom. I understand the rough and tumble playfulness, the obsession with building blocks and trains, the fact that every single diaper change for the first 2 years is a potential shower if you aren’t careful. How exactly does one go about diapering a girl? I’m sure I will figure it out in the first 24 hours, but the concept is so foreign to me.
In case I haven’t mentioned it 1,083 times on here, Parker is an agreeable and pleasant child. He is not prone to dramatics or mood swings and you can almost always reason with him. While I know that every child is different, I have heard horror stories about little girls being much more demanding and, er, aggressive than their male counterparts. I know that my brain is probably processing worst case scenario right now, but I have this fear of a hellion running around wielding her Barbie like a sword and commanding the Irishman and Parker to do her bidding.
Then she’ll hit her preteens and all hell will really break loose. She’ll be sulky and sullen and prone to Goth-like fits of darkness and rage. She and I will have legendary fights while the boys and the dogs hide under tables and chairs. She’ll do the exact opposite of everything we tell her and challenge authority of every kind. Once this phase is over, she’ll start dating (Lord help us). She’ll bring home the most inappropriate person she can find and have the audacity to actually get a life of her own without consulting us. Sure, she’ll eventually mellow out and grow up, but not before every piece of hair on my head is grey and my wrinkles tell the story of stress and fear over all of the nights when I prayed desperately that she would make it home in one piece.
In other words, I’m terrified that she will be just like me. I bet my mom just read this and is having fits of laughter and glee that I’m about to get exactly what I deserve. My father, on the other hand, has no idea what I’m talking about since to him, I was the picture of angelic agreeability and thoughtfulness.
I’m sure I’m totally overreacting and that she will be the picture of sweetness and light and will be the kindest soul to walk the earth. Right?
Right?
*tap, tap* Is this thing on?
Oh hell, I’m totally screwed. Someone, please hold me.

Beet Salad

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The first time that my husband had this dish at my mom’s house, he looked at it and said out of the side of his mouth, “What is that?” I encouraged him to just taste it and naturally, he liked it. To this day, this is the only way that he’ll eat beets. And eating beets is definitely a good thing because they are great for you. They are loaded with iron, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Beets also have many blood cleaning properties.
This recipe is incredibly simple. For 2 cans of beets (drained), add 2 cloves of minced garlic, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Mix it well and let it hang out for an hour or a day (depending on how much time you have). That’s all there is to it. I usually make four cans at a time and it only lasts me a couple of days.
If you’ve never tried beets before, I recommend taking the plunge. Oh, and just be careful when you drain the cans because beet juice stains. I have a number of shirts now relegated to “house clothes” that can attest to this.

Thanksgiving: The Aftermath

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Well, my parents and brother just drove away officially ending our month-long stretch of house guests. There are sheets and towels to be washed and guest rooms to be put back into hibernation. More pressingly, there are leftovers to be dealt with. As always, we definitely made way too much food. I think we still have about 10 lbs. of turkey and 2 lbs. of sweet potatoes and stuffing packed into the fridge.
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The good news is that most everything freezes well! So, I spent the morning bagging and freezing all of the leftovers. Notice how I’ve added a couple of spoonfuls of gravy to the baggies. This is to keep the turkey from drying out as it thaws.
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This way, over the next month or two, I can make:
Turkey pot pie
Turkey noodle soup
Turkey tetrazzini
Turkey sandwiches
Turkey salad
Turkey enchiladas
Turkey spaghetti casserole
In fact, it’s probably a great idea to roast a whole turkey every couple of months just to cut down on the prep time for all of these meals year round. Turkey is very versatile and just as lean as chicken. I know that no one in your houses wants to think about turkey for a long time, but they’ll change their minds after they’ve been stuffed with the Christmas ham.
Speaking of which, Parker and my dad put up our (artificial) tree yesterday.
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Truth be told, Christmas is by far my favorite holiday, so now that the turkey and stuffing-making is over, I’m gearing up for the holiday baking season. Bring on the cookies, eggnog and hot chocolate!

Oh Dear.

Every once and a while, a friend will comment on how my husband doesn’t make a frequent appearance here on this little blog. A large part of that is his preference for a degree of anonymity – he isn’t on Facebook and doesn’t really maintain an online presence of any sort. The other part of it is….well, perhaps these outtakes from our family photo shoot yesterday will explain the “problem” better than words can.

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I believe the phrase, “You can’t take him anywhere” was created specifically for my husband. Those of you who know the Irishman personally are probably shaking your heads in agreement right now. Thankfully, of the 30+ pictures I have of the Irishman making faces, we got one picture where we all look relatively “normal.” Although truth be told, I’m really tempted to send out one of these pictures as a Christmas card. I think it would be an accurate depiction of the three of us.

Thanksgiving Preparations

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This year, we’re staying put for Thanskgiving and I have to say, it is an incredible relief to be neither driving nor flying this holiday season. My parents and brother have graciously come to visit and we’re all looking forward to a low-key Turkey Day. We’re sticking with a simple menu for tomorrow. Here’s what it looks like:
Menu:
23 lb. roasted turkey
Stuffing
Mashed potatoes
Pan sweet potatoes
Cheddar pineapple bake (recipe below)
Fasolakia
Salad
Fresh cranberry sauce
Beet salad
Pre-Game:

Tonight, we’re going to go ahead and make the cranberry sauce, fasolakia, beet salad and prep the sweet potatoes for two different dishes. This allows the flavors to meld in advance and cuts down on our kitchen time for tomorrow. With three dishes knocked out, we can sleep easily and know that we got a head start on tomorrow’s festivities.
Gameday:
The game plan is to get the turkey started first thing in the morning. We keep the turkey simple by lining the roasting pan with whole stalks of celery, carrots and two onions cut into halves. Then, we season the turkey with just salt and pepper and roast it breast down (that’s our trick to keeping the turkey breast moist and flavorful). Set the oven to 315 degrees and cook it according to the time indicated on the package.
After the turkey is started, we usually make a big breakfast to hold everyone over (we eat around 3pm). Then, it’s time to start working on the side dishes. Since we only have one oven, we’ll bake the pan of sweet potatoes first, then the casserole and finally, the pineapple bake and stuffing. As things come out of the oven, we usually just tent them with foil to wait on the turkey. Once the turkey is done and removed from the oven, all of the other warm side dishes will be put back in to get nice and piping hot.
Cheddar Pineapple Bake:

So, this recipe is pretty much devoid of any nutritional value and it sounds like kind of a weird combination of things to throw together, but I promise you, it tastes ridiculously good. My former supervisor would bring this to all of our work functions and it was always the first thing gone. Here’s what you need:
1 (20 oz.) can unsweetened, crushed pineapple with juice
3 Tbs. white sugar
6 Tbs. melted butter
3 Tbs. flour
5 oz. shredded Cheddar cheese
1 stack Ritz crackers, crumbled
Combine the pineapple (with juice), sugar, melted butter, flour and cheese. Mix it well and spoon the mixture into a greased 1.5 quart baking dish. Top the mixture with cracker crumbs and bake it in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until it’s bubbly. Then, take a bite and pass out from the sheer pleasure of it.
Well folks, I hope that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and may your tables and hearts be full.

San Francisco In Pictures

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Although my trip last week was dominated by work (and a persistent cold), I did get the chance to leave the hotel a couple of times and see some of the sights of the city. Here are some images of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, the two major attractions that I got a chance to take in. As you’ll see, we lucked out with great weather for the most part.
Here is a view of Alcatraz from the Golden Gate parking area.
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The Golden Gate Bridge is so incredible majestic.
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Walking the bridge was quite an experience. The cars streaming by are incredibly loud and the bridge itself vibrates and bounces from the wind and the cars.
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Seeing the top of the pillar was surreal. It seems so incredibly high and I can’t imagine how the workings climb the riggings to paint the top.
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Before we left the bridge, I wanted to take a picture of downtown from the center of the bridge. You can also see Alcatraz on your left.
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The next night, we went on the Alcatraz night tour. It was a cold, rainy and blustery evening. In other words, it was the perfect conditions to travel to the most inhospitable prison in the US.
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One of the first things that you see upon approaching the island is this sign, which is a remnant of the Native American occupation of the island from 1969-1971.
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As soon as you enter the main prison facility, you immediately come across two rows of communal showers.
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Then, you head upstairs to the cell block.
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Alcatraz is such a study in contrasts. While the harsh prison conditions dominate your consciousness during the trip, you can’t help but notice the impressive views of the city.
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I took this picture to show you how small the window was for viewing visitors.
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Oh and for a bit of the supernatural, my camera took this picture itself. No joke. I have no idea how the shutter button was pushed, but I review every picture after I take it and I have zero recollection of taking this one.
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How’s that for freaky?

Chewy Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

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I am really sorry to do this to you. I really am. Usually, this little blog is full of healthy tips and low-fat recipes, but I had to share this with you. It’s really rather selfish of me, but I simply couldn’t keep this one to myself. You see, I’ve been working on a chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe for 6 months and two days ago, I finally got it right. Over the dozens and dozens of attempts (filled with hair pulling and cursing), I couldn’t quite get the chewy consistency that I was looking for. I tried butter, margarine, crisco and various combinations of the three, but the cookie kept coming out too crisp for my taste.

In a moment of reckless desperation, I added oatmeal and maple syrup to my recipe just for kicks. And it worked. I danced a jig around the kitchen and I shoved a chocolate chip cookie into my husband’s unwilling face and I praised the baking gods for blessing my kitchen on this fine day.

Then, I scrambled to write down exactly what I threw into the mix lest I forget the combination. And now I give it to you. Here’s what you need to make these little bites of chewy heaven.

1/2 cup butter (one stick), softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 whole egg
1 to 1.5 cup flour
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1.5 cups quick cooking oatmeal
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Mix the sugars and butter until creamy. Add in the vanilla, maple syrup and egg. Once combined, mix together the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder in a separate bowl and then add to the mixer. Finally, add in the oatmeal and chocolate chips and mix on low until well blended.

Then, scoop out onto a cookie sheet in tablespoon sized dollops and bake for 9-12 minutes (mine were perfect at 10 minutes). I almost always eat two cookies while they’re still too hot to taste, but the four I ate the next morning were still so soft and chewy. Pure cookie bliss. While I can’t in good conscience recommend that those of you trying to stick to wonderful eating habits make these immediately, I can say that if and when you decide to make them, it will be worth it.

Naturally, I’m headed straight to caloric purgatory until I burn off the SEVEN cookies that I ate in 12 hours, but that’s okay. My chewy cookie pilgrimage is over. My spatula can rest…for the moment.