Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bébé bites

We've been babyfood making central here these past few days. The wee one has finally decided to branch out from breastmilk and it's been fun seeing her experience new tastes and textures. Breakfast is usually a fruit, lunch is a fruit/veggie mix and dinner is a fruit/veggie mix with chopped up bits of whatever protein I'm eating (and sometimes chopped up bits of whatever veggies I'm eating as well). I thought I'd take a few minutes to write out a few of the combos we've tried for some of you ladies with little ones.

Harvest veggie mix
Butternut Squash

Peel and core apples. Chop equal amounts of the squash, apples and carrots into small cubes. Chop 3 or 4 prunes. Combine all of the fruits and veggies and steam. Blend, using small amounts of the liquid leftover from steaming to achieve the desired consistency. Cool and either refrigerate or freeze in ice cube trays for future use.

Go Green!

Combine equal amounts of broccoli, peas and peeled/cored/chopped pears (or adjust the ratios to fit your baby's palate). Steam and blend, using small amounts of cooking liquid to achieve the desired consistency. Cool and either refrigerate or freeze in ice cube trays for future use.

Rosemary Applesauce
4 Apples
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

(I'm still working on the best way to do this recipe but this is what I did today and it worked quite well)
Preheat oven to 350.
Peel and core apples. I chopped them into quarters because it was the easiest way to core them. Place two apples on a large piece of tin foil with a sprig of rosemary, fold the foil over and crimp the edges so the apples are sealed inside the foil packet (repeat with the other two apples and rosemary). Place the two packets on a cookie sheet and bake for about 45 minutes. Remove the rosemary and blend, using small amounts of water to achieve a good consistency.
I think I could have done this just as easily by steaming them but this worked really well  and tasted so good that I was stealing bites from her :).

Cardamom scented pears
4-5 pears
4-5 whole Cardamom pods

Peel and core pears and chop into small cubes. Place pears in steamer basket with the cardamom pods. Steam, remove pods and blend pears. You probably won't need to add any liquid to get them to the right consistency. I think I'll add some nutmeg to these the next time.

Baked nectarines
4 nectarines

Wash nectarines and slash an 'X' shape at the bottom of them with a knife. Wrap in foil and bake on 350 for an hour. Remove and allow to cool. The skin should remove easily and the flesh can be pulled right off the pit. Blend as is with no added liquid.

I'm sure we'll come up with more interesting stuff as she continues to grow and I hope to keep posting them here! Please chime in with your favorite combos and recipes!

Monday, March 14, 2011

On absence

The wee one and I have been listening to Persuasion on iTunes audiobook this past week. It's been absolutely lovely too prepare dinner, play and eat to the delightful tones of Geraldine McEwan's velvety voice and a welcome change from the silence that's not otherwise occupied by babbling or my one-sided chatter.

I've watched the movie a million times in the past several years (sorry, haven't had much time to sit down and read for fun) but the following quote never quite stood out to me like it did this time around. Written so long ago, yet still poignant, beautiful and fitting today:

"Ah!" cried Captain Harville, in a tone of strong feeling, "if I could but make you comprehend what a man suffers when he takes a last look at his wife and children, and watches the boat that he has sent them off in, as long as it is in sight, and then turns away and says, 'God knows whether we ever meet again!' And then, if I could convey to you the glow of his soul when he does see them again; when, coming back after a twelvemonth's absence, perhaps, and obliged to put into another port, he calculates how soon it be possible to get them there, pretending to deceive himself, and saying, 'They cannot be here till such a day,' but all the while hoping for them twelve hours sooner, and seeing them arrive at last, as if Heaven had given them wings, by many hours sooner still!"

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A few loose thoughts from today

  • My child will be 9 months old this week. Where exactly has time gone?? I swear pregnancy was longer than this has been...seriously..
  • My child is sporting 2 1/2 teeth with 3 more about to make their appearance. This particular bullet point is why I really can't wait till she's 3 sometimes.
  • I finally resurrected my iPod after not touching it for over a year and a half and spent over 2 hours trying to get it updated and attempting to get the Nike+ feature to work. I gave up halfway through and just did my run before coming back to it. Of course it worked the second I got off the treadmill.
  • Couch to 5k is boring. Bah. However, I'd like to avoid injury so onward I plod. Can't wait to do a race again.
  • My treadmill is also boring so Spring, you can feel free to show up and actually stay anytime. No, really. 
  • I need to do dishes. (I don't think any of you realize how big of an understatement this is...)
  • I need to finish folding laundry.
  • I need to pick up the baby toys that are all over the floor.
  • Playing with the baby is way more fun than any of the aforementioned three points.
  • Trying to decide when to book our hotel for R&R. I just know the minute I put a deposit on this resort, Jason's date will get changed. It's just how things work in the good ol' Army.
  • Can't WAIT for R&R: a week at the St. Regis in Park City Utah. Mountains, lakes, hikes, good restaurants, lounging by the pool with my favorite two people....yeah, it's going to be amazing. We need this.
  • Trying to decide if AAA or the military discount is going to save us more money....
  • Iraqi internet sucks, by the way
  • Keep thinking about this awful show I watched last night called Outrageous Kid Parties. The woman plunked down 32K for her 6 year old's birthday party. The only thing I've been able to think about all day is this: 32K could have helped one foreign orphan find their forever home and could have possibly helped two domestic orphans find theirs. I realize people are entitled to spend their money however they want, but my heart just broke knowing that money that could have literally saved a child's lifetime went to a spoiled brat who had no clue or appreciation for what was being spent on her. It's disgusting. 
  • I'll step down from that soapbox before I get even more angry..
  • Looking forward to a quiet evening sewing, chatting with my 9 month old (it can't be possible...), drinking some sort of hot beverage and contemplating how many more dishes I can fit in the sink...just kidding, I'm going to wash them now...maybe...

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Manly Art of...

So what do you do for the guy that has everything?

By the time Jason and I got married, he had firmly established himself in the ranks of bachelorhood and had amassed just about every gadget, electronic or otherwise, that existed (I'm fairly sure we own at least three X-boxes, correct me if I'm wrong Jason...). I knew I had to come up with something good for the first Christmas we were together so I pulled out my only big gun and did a painting of the Cadet Chapel at West Point which got me major points. It also left me kicking myself because I had no idea what I was going to do for the remaining 60+ years of birthdays and Christmases.

When it comes to gift giving, I hate just buying some random thing off the rack. I agonize over finding the perfect thing (or experience, as the case may be) and would rather find one small unique item than have 10 off the shelf things that he could walk into Best Buy and get himself.

Needless to say, it's always a pretty daunting task and I always try to be alert for clues he might give me for things he might enjoy (this is one of the many fun parts of marriage I think).

One of these mental notes was logged as we were trawling through some shops in the Ponte Di Rialto in Venice a couple of Christmases ago. I was testing out handcrafted perfumes bottled in stunning hand-blown Murano glass vessels when Jason noticed a display of shaving sets among the men's toiletries (I should note that I was the one who dragged him into the store in the first place...). There is something decidedly manly and old-school about a well crafted shaving set and the man-appeal is upped probably about 90% when a classic straight razor is involved. Men and dangerous objects. Sigh.

We left the Profumiere without buying one of the sets (I did score a bottle of that perfume but it met an untimely end in my bathroom just a few months later) but he brought them up occasionally in the months that followed. A couple of weeks ago, I was doing my daily (ok, several-times-daily) check of Etsy and discovered a complete gem of a shop called Orangefuzz: two artists making scrumptious health and beauty products. One of their featured items was a shaving kit complete with shaving soap, brush, aftershave and bar soap. As if it wasn't already cool enough, the shaving soap is made with beer (you can't smell it but apparently something in beer is good for the skin...and I mean, come on, how much manlier can you get than soap made from a good stout!) and it's all packaged in a vintage cigar box. WIN! Everything smells amazing and in the words of the Orangefuzz artists, "deliciously masculine".

The only thing missing was the razor. I knew I didn't want just any old razor so I started researching straight razors and happened upon a rather large and dedicated online community of classic shaving enthusiasts and historians. I had a specific razor in mind: a vintage US Army issued razor. As fortune would have it, my inquiry was met with several responses describing the history of such a find (the Army issue ones are apparently pretty rare and it's even more rare to find one in good enough shape to shave with or even get to shaving quality) and one collector had the one I was looking for: a J. R. Torrey blade in perfect condition that he was willing to sell for a decent price.

You're probably wondering why I'm posting all of this online if it's supposed to be a gift for Jason's birthday...

Unfortunately, it's impossible to keep secrets from him. I made the mistake of saying I had gotten him an awesome gift and after only describing it as "manly", he guessed on the first try. I can't keep a straight face...so he found out. So now he just needs to get himself home so I can give all this awesomeness to him and I suppose I'd better be armed with lots of bandaids and 911 on speed dial... ;)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sweet Valentine (with recipes!)

So what do a bunch of Army wives do on St. Valentine's day when their husbands are gone? Have a party!!
I have to say, I haven't had this much fun in a looong time. It took me a good hour to fall asleep because I was just so happy. I have met some amazing women here and am constantly impressed with how beautiful they are: physically, they're gorgeous, but more importantly, they have exquisite souls and spirits full of life and strength. I love being around them and I feel like I got to know them so much better Saturday night. Who knew all it would take was some chocolate and strawberry buttercream?

I suppose I kind of went overboard on the food, but planning really helped keep me sane during the last month of dreary cold winter and snowy days. I had hoped to have everything set up and perfect by the time the party started but the baby had other plans. In the end, it was more fun working with my friends to get it all set up than it would have been to be greeting everyone with a glass of wine in hand and my makeup perfect. Christa put together the mini-BLTs, Diane did my dishes, Wendy got the chocolate fountain going (that my wonderful neighbor let us borrow for the night). The spread was lovely and tasted just as good (even though I broke Ina Garten's cardinal rule of entertaining which is to never try out a new recipe on one's guests...several times..)

I promised to post the recipes so here they are:

Mini-BLTs with the most amazing sun-dried tomato mayo (a staple at Erin's parties and if you make them, you'll understand why)
Chicken meatballs served with Emeril's Roasted Red pepper sauce (found in the pasta sauce section of the grocery store). These were a new recipe and thankfully turned out amazing. I used bacon instead of Pancetta since it was cheaper...worked beautifully.
Vanilla cupcakes with fresh Strawberry Buttercream. The cupcakes are entirely gluten free and are from my favorite food blog, Tartelette. I could eat them unfrosted all day long...BUT...Erin's strawberry buttercream takes them to entirely new levels. I'm telling you, this frosting is out of this world. You'll eat it straight out of the bowl. 

Homemade vanilla bean marshmallows. So simple and so tasty. Light, fluffy speckled pillows of scrumptiousness. Love.

Chocolate dessert cups filled with chocolate raspberry mousse. I originally made a mousse from scratch but it failed horribly. I ended up using a boxed mix that tasted just as good and piped beautifully. No real recipes here, just sinful chocolaty goodness.
Chocolate truffles, courtesy of Pioneer Woman. I spiked mine with Cognac and dusted them in cocoa powder that I picked up in a lovely little shop in Paris.

So even though we all would definitely have been happier spending this past weekend with our dear husbands, this was just what we needed. Or at least, it was just what I needed :).

(And the delightful Lisa Marie took a fabulous shot of one of my crowns so I could give you a preview of my shop!)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I've kind of been dying a little over John Galliano's latest collection for Dior. Feast your eyes, people:


I've been a closet follower of the Haute Couture world for years. I used to sit in my room watching the runway shows every season online and I could rattle off the main designers for any of the major fashion houses if asked (I have far more important things to remember these days but I do still think Karl needs to retire).

I grew up in some pretty conservative circles in which fashion was looked upon as vain and clothes were meant simply to cover (as much as possible) your body so any amount of fabric in any color and in any (horrendous) style would do. All of this in the name of God, of course. It was this mentality that had me watching Ralph Lauren's spring collection behind closed doors and peeking at the September Issue of Vogue behind the magazine racks when no one was looking. I spent years clad in culottes, mid-calf khaki skirts and shapeless shirts. I still remember going into Saks 5th Avenue in NYC on a high school trip wearing a khaki shirt and windbreaker (de rigeur for my alma mater at the time) and being shadowed by salespeople who clearly thought I was going to try to sneak something in my crocheted Wal-Mart shoulder bag. It was torture. Even though I was expected to conform to these legalistic views on clothes, I could no more scoff at McQueen or Galliano than I could Monet.

I no longer feel the guilt or pressure that I once did and I now feel sorry for those who insist on living in such a bleak world and not appreciating couture for what it is: Art. Beauty. Sculpture. (The list goes on). Nature is full of color, line, abstract forms and outrageous design, all formed by the hands of God himself. Man and Woman were his ultimate creations, his masterpieces, yet for some reason, a small clatch of people insist on covering these works of art in crap (I really did try to come up with a better word...sorry). One wouldn't put a Rembrandt in a burlap bag before putting it out on display so why would we cover the creation of The Artist in dowdy shapeless garments.

I'm not advocating nudity or frivolity at all, but I like to think of clothing as that "frame" so to speak. A way of enhancing the beautiful creation that we are.

One of my favorite sites is The Sartorialist.  While I dearly love the artistry of the couture shows (the makeup! the shoes! the head-wear! the lighting design!), I am fascinated by the creativity displayed by the average people Schuman captures in his photographs: a bit of vintage lace here, a classic suit there, a jaunty hat on fresh, windswept hair. More than the clothes, I'm always captivated by the faces of his subjects. In a refreshing departure from most of the fashion world, Schuman finds real people with wrinkles and flaws yet enormous amounts of character (take this Milanese gentleman, for instance). The hat, the loosely tied scarf, the perfectly tailored coat and the wedding ring hanging onto aging fingers. I want to know his story.

All this being said, I don't claim to be any sort of fashionista myself. I try, but since my wardrobe currently revolves around my daughter's feeding needs, I tend to resort to some sort of loose or stretchy shirt and jeans.  I adore trips to Anthropologie, Banana Republic and J Crew as much as the next girl though (despite almost never buying anything) and I'm probably going to set an alarm reminding me when the Burberry accessories boutique opens on Rue La La tomorrow. I would probably pee my pants if I ever got a shot at owning a Burberry trench (the construction...the fabric...gah!).

Does this make me vain? No! I love beauty and I love art and the few nicer labels I own are always worn with a very deep appreciation for the craftmanship that went into each piece. So on that note, go treat yourself to a copy of Vogue then sit back and watch the latest Dior runway show. It'll do you more sensory good than that Kinkade on your wall ;).

All Dior images taken from The Daily Mail
Milanese Gentleman from The Sartorialist

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

When the tough cookie crumbles (or something like that)

People have described me as tough. Strong.

Perhaps I am. I do have a bit of an independent streak in me and I am pretty good at making it through trying circumstances without falling apart. I've always been this way (ask my poor gray-haired mother about that independent streak sometime) and in fact, there was a time that my parents thought I didn't know how to cry (ask my friends how much that's changed. ha).

Let me let you in on a little secret though: I'm a big weenie.
  • I cry at any commercial remotely referencing the military.
  • I sleep with a light on.
  • I cry when other people's husband's come home.
  • I've eaten 3 bags of hershey kisses in the past week (don't tell my husband...)
  • I get a lump in my throat any time I drive past a sign that says "Redeployment Ceremony: this way"
  • I get mopey because I have to take the trash out.
  • I get frustrated because I couldn't get the carseat installed on my own.
  • I watch an inordinate amount of chick flicks.
  • I whine to my girlfriends
  • The list goes on....
So I guess "tough" is one way of putting it. I'm just good at not letting the vulnerable side of me show until it all sort of builds up and I just lose it for no reason and start blubbering in random public places over completely piddly things (not that I've done that any time recently...coughcough).

I would submit that most military wives deal with a rather schizophrenic set of emotions: one minute we're doing great, the next minute we're down, the next minute we're ok but just sort of 'meh', then we're mad, then we're happy again, then we just want to give the finger to Iraq and the Army simultaneously...

In light of this, I've assembled a sound track to a typical day in my life. Enjoy:

  1. Pier Gynt: Morning We start out sort of relaxed and happy because it's really too soon after waking up for anything to have really affected our moods one way or the other. 
  2. Insert any obnoxious Nickelback song here: they're all annoying The baby starts screaming for no reason and I try to get her to either nap or stop screaming. She's gassy, teething or something. (I should note that I don't think my child's screaming has ever grated on me more than a Nickleback song, but it gets the point across)
  3. Enya The baby is down for her morning nap and I get some unbelievably precious few moments of silence
  4. Splish Splash Baby wakes up grinning and smiling. Yay! Happy music!
  5. Ella Fitzgerald: Senitmental Mood Baby plays quietly, I work on crafts or whatnot, thoughts tend to prey on me but not to the point of getting depressed.
  6. Moby: Everloving Still not depressed, but back to melancholy, especially if it happens to be a day that Jason doesn't get online until late.
  7. John Coltrane: My One and Only Love  Jason gets online and we get to chat but then I have to take the baby to the doctor....cue Ozzy:
  8. CRAZY TRAIN! Shots. Baby Freaks. Baby won't settle down. Mom forgets to grab tylenol from the pharmacy. Baby still screaming. Runs back in to get drugs and the pharmacy is closed. Mom starts bawling. (at this time, Moby's Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad starts playing simultaneously with Crazy Train)
  9. Lonestar: I'm Already There (You didn't seriously think you'd get away with no sappy country songs did you?) Driving home sobbing, all I can think about is how badly I want my husband home.
  10. Billy Joel: Lullabye  Sing the baby to sleep for the first of many times.
  11. Journey: Faithfully This song started playing when I started Jason's car the other day. Journey is one of his favorite bands and whenever I miss him a ton, this one plays in my head. Finally fall asleep after tossing, turning and trying to get a tired and cranky baby back to sleep.
  12. Helen Reddy: I Am Woman Amazing what a good night's sleep will do. I'm superwoman again and I even make a decent breakfast and do the dishes!
  13. Bob Marley: Three Little Birds Baby is happy (!!!!), I'm happy, life feels pretty dang good today. The sun's even shining!
  14. Sonicflood: I Want to Know You Meditating on God while I drive the 25 minutes into town. Realizing how much easier life becomes when I do lean on God and seek to know him more.
  15. Phillips, Craig and Dean: Revelation Song Further realizing that if indeed God is Holy and Almighty (which he is), he is capable of bringing me through trials like having my husband halfway around the world.
  16. The Afters: Light Up the Sky The events and chaos of the previous day finally seem a distant memory. Even at my lowest points, God will gently pick me and show me his glory and his grace and his love.
Pray for us wives as we continue on this adventure that God has placed us on. It's a series of highs and lows and though we may look like we have it together all the time, most of us don't. We put our happy strong faces on for our kids, our friends and even for ourselves but we miss our husbands dearly and we desperately need your prayers.