Monday, May 30, 2011

Weekend Fun

We had a wonderful long weekend here. We had a visit from a long-time friend of mine (a former college roommate!). She met my girls for the first time and became fast friends with Miss.

Lass is experiencing some stranger/separation anxiety right now, so she wasn't exactly warm and fuzzy with our guest, but she did lots of smiling from a distance.

It seems that the weather has finally cooperated with the calendar (though not until yesterday, which was 90 degrees!) and summer has arrived. We spent the morning yesterday at the pool. My husband had to work all weekend, so I took the girls by myself and therefore have no pictures of our first pool outing of the year. I was doing good to keep track of Miss while holding Lass constantly, so photo time wasn't really going to happen. I tried to set Lass down in a tiny bit of water in the zero entry area of the pool, but she didn't want anything to do with that. Then I tried to put her in our portable exersaucer thing. I should have known better. She didn't like it the first time I put her in it at home.
But on that first day she eventually got a bit used to being in the thing, so I thought maybe she would do better at the pool. When I put her in it she immediately started screaming and trying to climb out. So she spent the entire pool time in the Ergo, which was okay too.

During nap time I finally got out our water and sand table, which has been in the box for a few weeks since it has been too cold to play with it. We didn't have any sand but the girls didn't know the difference when I filled up both sides with water.

Lass felt like such a big deal being able to stand and play with her sister.

There was tons of splashing.

Miss was just scooping the water onto herself!

And she was very diligent about watering the landscaping.

Including the rocks.

Then she realized how wet she was and begged me to get a towel and dry her off.
I wiped the front of her clothes with the towel and dried her feet. I thought she might be upset about her wet clothes and ask to get dry clothes on. But she just went right back to splashing herself and pouring water everywhere. It's going to be a fun summer.

A Bath Time Conversation

A bath time conversation:

Miss: "Wook! I make sanwishes!"
Me: "Mmmm! Those sandwiches look delicious!"
Miss nods head, "You eat it Momma?"
Me: "What flavor are they?"
Miss: Blinks...
Me: "What flavor is the blue one?"
Miss: "Hmm, bwuebewy!"
Me: "What flavor is the green one?"
Miss: "Maybeee, appasauce, punkin, aaaand kiwi!"
Me: "Ooo, that sounds delicious. What flavor is the orange one?"
Miss: "Hmm, maybeee appasauce, punkin, aaaand banaaana!"
(That morning I had given Lass some babyfood that was a mixture of apples, pumpkin, banana, and sweet potato, or something like that.)
Me: "Wow. What about the yellow one?"
Miss: "Mm, maybeee appasauce, punkin, aaaand... Grandma!!!!"
Me: "Grandma?!"
Miss: Cracks up laughing.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lass at 9 months

Lass is 9 months old today. Can you believe it? She has recently hit this little spurt where she just seems to be doing so many new things all at once. She is trying so hard to get moving and is getting better and faster at her army crawling.

She now has six teeth and has eaten lots and lots of new foods, including most fruits and vegetables, chicken, and yogurt. Her favorites seem to be fresh mashed bananas and sweet potatoes. She still nurses four times per day.

I think she said her first word last week. What was it? "Da-Da!" Go figure! She has recently learned to wave too.

She loves to be outside and to watch her big sister.

She is pulling up on everything and has started cruising a little bit (like her momma, she sticks her tongue out when she's working hard on something). She is already working on standing on her own, though hasn't been too successful with this so far.

She is such a sweet little baby with the most wonderful disposition. I'm cherishing each new phase with her. And by the way, her hair has started to lie flat! So cute.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Rock Soup or Flank Steak?

While we waited for our dinner to braise this afternoon, the girls and I went outside, where Miss proceeded to make her own dinner of Rock Soup. It all started with puddles this morning, which we used to "paint" the driveway with sticks and grass, and then sponges and sponge brushes. This afternoon, however, the puddles were all dried up, so I got Miss a bucket of water and she proceeded to "paint" some more.

Who knew that a bucket of water and some sponges could provide such entertainment?? Lass just loved being in the grass.

After a while, the painting stopped and Miss said, "I stiwing (stirring!)" so I asked her what she was making. "Wock soup!" was her answer.

Everyone had to taste some and we "oohed" and "aahed" over how delicious it was.

Lass especially enjoyed it.

Shortly after filling up on Rock Soup, I had to come inside to finish fixing our real dinner. Tonight was the night I used our most recent "Chopped" ingredient, flank steak. I decided to use what I learned in my cooking class on braising to make the flank steak, since it is a pretty tough cut of meat. The dish? Braised Flank Steak Stew with Fennel and Leeks. It was delicious. Even Miss gobbled it up. Here's the recipe:

Braised Flank Steak Stew with Fennel and Leeks

1.5 lb (approx) flank steak, cut into 1 inch pieces
Olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp minced fresh lemon thyme (or regular thyme)
Salt and Pepper
1 cup chopped carrots (about two handfuls of baby carrots)
2 celery ribs chopped
1 medium onion chopped
1/2 cup red wine
zest from one lemon
beef stock
1.5 lbs Dutch baby potatoes
1/2 stick butter
vegetable oil
2 fennel bulbs, sliced
1 large leek, halved, rinsed, and sliced
4 tsp sugar

Put the cut up steak, thyme, and garlic in a bowl and add a few tablespoons of olive oil (enough to wet all the steak) and some salt and pepper. Mix to get the meat well coated. Put in refrigerator overnight.

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. While your pan is heating, start flouring your meat (make sure you shake off the excess flour). Add about a tablespoon of olive oil and let it get hot, then add your meat in batches.

Get the meat pieces nicely browned. Then remove to a plate, add more oil, and do the next batch. Repeat if necessary.

I had to cook the meat in three batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Lass woke up from her nap after the second batch and decided to help me out.

Once all the meat is browned, add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and put in the carrots, celery, and onion. Cook until they start to soften and brown.

Then pour in the red wine. Let it cook for a minute or two to reduce a bit. Then put the meat back in the pan, making sure to also get any accumulated juices on the plate poured into the pan. Add the lemon zest and enough beef stock to cover the meat half to two-thirds of the way. Cover the pan and put it in the oven for about 2 hours.

About a half hour before your meat is done, start cooking the rest of the stew. Cut the larger baby potatoes in half. Put them in a sauce pan with enough cold water to cover them. Bring to a boil and boil until tender, 10-12 minutes. Drain off water and add butter and salt to taste. Smash up the potatoes as you stir in the butter.

Once your potatoes start to cook, put another skillet or saute pan over medium high heat. Slice your fennel and leek. Blot them dry with a paper towel. Put about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in once your pan is hot. When the oil is hot, put in the fennel and leek and stir to coat. Stir them occasionally. You want them to start to brown and caramelize. Add sugar during this process (fennel has very little natural sugar in it, so adding sugar helps it to caramelize nicely). Cook until softened and browned.

Pull the meat out of the oven. Taste the sauce and check the consistency. When I took mine out the consistency was perfect, but the sauce needed more salt. Add S&P as necessary and adjust thickness of sauce as needed (to thicken whisk some cornstarch and beef stock together and add, or add more stock to thin). Put some potatoes in a bowl and top with beef mixture and then fennel/leek mixture. Makes about 4 servings.

I would not have done anything differently with this dish other than maybe skipping the leek and adding a third fennel bulb. The fennel added a delicious sweetness and crunchy texture, but the leek didn't really seem to bring anything to the dish. My husband was wishing for more fennel, though I thought the ratio of fennel to the rest of the dish was okay, so maybe I would add more fennel, maybe not. I guess since the elements are put together after they're cooked and each person can choose how much fennel to add on top, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to cook another bulb and then each person can add as much as they want. Otherwise, I was extremely happy with the dish! Next week, two ingredients (in one dish)!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dance! Momma

Last night, we went dancing.

After a fun-filled day of play date and picnic at the park followed by naps and more outdoor fun, I put on my favorite dancing shoes and my husband and I went to a grown up party.

We ate delicious food, met new people, drank adult beverages, listened to a great band, and most importantly danced ourselves silly. We danced with the completely un-selfconscious frenzy of Those Who Do Not Get Out Much. We danced with joy and 80s moves galore to songs like "Footloose" and "Living on a Prayer." "Ballroom Blitz" made me nearly pass out (and pee my pants a little). We danced for over three hours straight. We danced until we were sweaty and laughing like fools and dizzy and falling down with exhaustion as the band packed up after playing a fantastic show. We danced like the world was about to end... Rapture indeed.

It was the kind of night that kept us talking about how much fun we had as we dragged ourselves home and into bed. The kind of night that made us feel like we had way too little sleep (when Lass woke up at 6). The kind of night that led to laughing recaps of favorite songs and best moves over coffee and breakfast and Saturday morning snuggles.

It was the kind of night that serves as a reminder that, as much as we love being with our girls and spending time as a family of four, it is great to have some time to be totally focused on each other for a while (even if I was texting the babysitter during the band's break). I like to dress up and go out with my hubby and have a conversation that isn't interrupted every three seconds. We don't make a rule when we go out not to talk about the girls. We don't need to. Sometimes we talk about them and that's okay, but we can spend plenty of time talking about anything and nothing. Last night we barely talked at all. The band was too loud. So we laughed and gestured and sang as loudly as we could and occasionally yelled an "I love this one!!" and tried to out-do each other's dance moves. Speaking of which, last night was the kind of night that reminded me that I am not as young as I once was. I am feeling that dancing today. And it was the kind of night that reminded me that head banging to ACDC = majorly sore neck in the morning. As Miss would say, "Owie." Just relaxing tonight.