Monthly Archives: January 2011

Midwinter Thaw

Casting shadows

Yup. It’s still winter around here and we’re expecting more snow this week. Fortunately, the weather has been a little warmer (40 degrees!) the last few days and last week’s  snow- or was it the week before? – has left streams and lakes of dirty, melted slush. Because it was so much warmer yesterday, we explored a new park. It was in one of the nicer neighborhoods (not that there is anything wrong with where we live) and it is fancier than I remember playgrounds being when I was a kid.

There were musical instruments...

...and fancy jungle gyms

Lorelei didn’t show much interest in playing on any of the equipment. She was content to run around and (not) walk through the snow

What is this stuff? You expect me to walk on it?

She investigated things on the ground.

Fallen leaves are among her favorite outdoor toys

A bowling ball, perhaps?

Crouching down to examine nature...

I’m very thankful for the slightly warmer days.

My two favorite people

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Josephine

Shhh...I'm sleeping

My cats have two states – three if you count using the litter box which I don’t because EWWW – sleeping and begging for food. Last night, Josephine decided that the pile of boots by the front door was a comfortable place for a late evening nap. Also, it’s possible Grace had banished her from their usual nap spot on the papasan chair.

Why Being a One-Car Family is Going to Give Me Gray Hairs

In January of 2009, I totaled my car. (It was last in a three month period of crappy events that began with our South City house being broken into.) At 4 am, I was on my way to open the bakery. It was a typical St Louis morning in the winter: very cold. It was also very icy and despite the fact that I’d driven this route a hundred times before – many of them in worse conditions – I hit a patch of ice and lost control. The car spun across four lanes of traffic and the back end slammed into the median. I was extremely lucky. It could have been so much worse but fortunately, I wasn’t driving that fast and there were no other cars on the road. Anyway, this is a really long way of saying that my car was fucked.

At that point in time, we weren’t planning on having kids for awhile (HAHAHAHA – Lorelei is my little happy accident) and, in an attempt to get our financial situation under control (HAHAHAHA!) we decided to downsize to one car. Brian sold his and we bought an itty-bitty Chevy Aveo. So we also really downsized. Despite the fact that I learned to drive in a minivan, I’ve always been a lot more comfortable in a small car. And again, we thought kids were going to be a few more years down the road. It made sense at the time and since it was only two years old, it was still under warranty (thank goodness).

I’ve already gone over the mechanical problems it decided to develop around Thanksgiving. Two-plus weeks later, we picked it up from the dealer and it still had a smell when I drove. Turns out, there was something wrong with the valve cover gasket and the car was leaking oil. We needed to take it in for scheduled maintenance anyway, so when Brian discovered the oil leak yesterday he freaked and made an appointment to take it in this morning.

It wouldn’t have been bad except one of the downsides of sharing a car is that occasionally, Brian is the one who needs it. Last night, he started teaching an ACT-prep class in Belleville. He came home for lunch and then took the car back to work with him. Starting at 1 pm, I had no means of escape from the apartment. The car went in for service early this morning making it more than a day since I last left the confines of these four walls.

Look, I’m not one to complain – okay, maybe I am – but there is only so much that a baby can do in a 1,000-square foot apartment (half of which is usually closed off). Correction: there is only so much a baby is allowed to do. If I let her pull all the books off the shelves like she wants, she could amuse herself for hours. Anywho, the two of us tend to go a little stir crazy which is why we usually go out for an adventure in the morning (story time, MOBOT, grocery shopping, etc). We had no means of escape today so while I puttered around doing some cleaning, Lorelei was being destructive in the living room.

And then she decided to start climbing on the box of test-prep materials – it’s all Brian’s fault, see? – that had just arrived this morning. I didn’t see the climbing and I didn’t see the fall but I did hear the crying. I most definitely saw the vomiting.

She’s fine. Really. I kept her up for a couple hours after the fall and other than the one time puke-fest, she didn’t show any other signs of a concussion. Phew.

Today, I am very thankful for excellent children’s movies (we watched Wall-E and Shrek the Third) and bubbles. Those were the only things that kept me from going insane today. The movies for at least small stretches of quiet time and the bubbles because they made her laugh like a crazy person. Also, we found the finger puppets that I bought her for Christmas after she emptied EVERY! SINGLE! THING! out of her toy basket. I didn’t know it was possible to amuse a baby just by tickling her with a cat head finger puppet.

Into the Void

Do I matter?

I’ve been asking myself that a lot lately. The monotony of my day-to-day life has me questioning not only my sanity but my value. The dreary midwestern winter is threatening my sunny non-medicated mood with it’s endless days of gray, gray and maybe even grey.

What do I do everyday?

If I wrote it out, every tiny little detail, you would die of boredom. My life revolves around Lorelei and keeping the apartment from becoming a filthy pit. I find myself saying the words poo-poo and pee-pee out loud more than any twenty-eight year old woman should.

Baby girl, did you go poo-poo? I say at least three times a day

Oh! My! God! Please stop banging your blocks on the TV stand, I say firmly. Or perhaps, Stop pulling all of the underwear out of my dresser.

This is my world. This is my choice.

Despite that. Despite knowing that this was what I wanted – really, really wanted – it’s hard.

I don’t have a job outside the home but I work my ass off everyday. I clean up a mess that will just magically reappear ten minutes later. I cook, I research recipes, I read books about food so that I can provide good and healthy meals not only for myself but also for Brian and Lorelei. I’m here, trying to be a better writer – probably failing a lot. And yet…I feel like what I do doesn’t make a difference.

I feel liking I’m talking into a void.

Do I matter?

Naps (on the Ground)

Despite the fact that the temperatures were in the single digits yesterday morning, I don’t think the daughter or I could stand another day of just staring at each other. Maintenance had come by and shoveled our steps – their timing could have been better since it was during prime nap time – and the streets around the complex were plowed. I bundled Lorelei up as best as I could and we headed out. After forty-five minutes of reading and coloring and running around she must have been completely worn out and fell asleep on the ride home.

The act of removing her from her car seat and lugging her up the stairs would normally rouse her, but apparently not. I set her down on the living room floor so that I could take my shoes off. She sat, wobbling for a second with her eyes fluttering and then she tipped over and went back to sleep. After amusing myself with taking pictures, I got her a blanket and tucked it around her and there she remained for almost two hours.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Heaven on a plate

We’re trying not to eat out as much as we used to. Unfortunately, there are some things that I never thought I would be able to make at home…until now. Chicken tikka masala is easily my favorite (not-really-traditional) Indian dish. It looks complicated and there are a ton of ingredients, but you should have most of them in your kitchen already.

Ingredients:

For the Marinade:

  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • juice of half a lemon

Rinse and pat dry chicken breasts. Combine cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and salt in a small bowl to make a rub. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken liberally with the spice mixture and press gently to make sure it adheres. They should be well coated. If you can see chicken meat, put some spice on it! Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and set aside (for now).

Spice mixture

In a large bowl (or whatever dish you plan on marinating your chicken in – I used a square Pyrex with a lid), combine yogurt, garlic, ginger and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the chicken, making sure it’s well coated, cover tightly and refrigerate. It needs to marinate for at least an hour and ideally overnight.

Marinade - please use whole milk yogurt. For me?

For Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons oil (butter, olive oil, etc. – I used grapeseed)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala (see notes)
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, in juices
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (see notes)
  • salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream

You Will Also Need

  • several long skewers, soaked
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

After your meat has been marinating a sufficient amount of time and you’re ready to make dinner, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion until softened, stirring frequently. Add garlic, ginger, tomato sauce and garam masala; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant – about 3 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, sugar and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced – about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in heavy cream. Cover to keep warm until chicken is cooked.

While sauce simmers, preheat a lightly oiled grill pan over medium-high heat. Thread chicken onto skewers and discard marinade. Grill until juices run clear, about 5 minutes per side. Let cool slightly, remove from skewers and place on a serving dish. Cover in warm sauce and garnish with chopped cilantro.

Hello Gorgeous!

Notes:

  • My recipe is a mish-mash of about three different ones I found on-line. Chicken tikka masala can be prepared about a million (slight exaggeration) different ways. You will need a yogurt marinade for the chicken and the sauce is always going to have tomatoes and cream, but you can change up the spices however you like. I like this version because it tastes almost exactly like what I can get at my favorite Indian restaurant.
  • Fresh Ginger: Buy a hunk of root and keep it in the freezer. It’s easy to peel, you can just grate whatever amount you need (still frozen!), rewrap and throw back in the freezer.
  • Garam Masala: Apparently, you can buy a spice blend in the store but I could not find it at any of the ones that I frequent. Fortunately, it can be made pretty easily with stuff you probably already have on hand. This is how I made mine: 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp cayenne, one bay leaf (crumbled), pinch of ground cloves, pinch of ground nutmeg and salt. This makes a little more than a tablespoon so I just used all of it in my sauce.
  • Sugar: I used this tiny amount to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes. Feel free to omit it if you want to avoid sugar but think of it this way: this is 2 teaspoons for an entire pot of sauce.
  • A note on the chicken: you don’t have to cut it up before you grill it, especially if you don’t have skewers. Leave it whole and either grill it like that or put in a foil lined pan and broil it.
  • Final note (phew): This made a lot (and I do mean a lot) of sauce. I will probably make a second batch of chicken or just eat it straight out of the pot like a slightly spicy (and chunky!) tomato soup.

Cooped Up, Take Two

On the front porch

"I drive a scooter..."

First set of footprints

An empty playground

Getting her snow legs

Threatening the baby with a powdery snowball

"I wanna go back to the playground!"

Cooped Up

Today is my least favorite kind of day. The forecast is for SNOW! but it hasn’t yet arrived. Instead of being trapped by a blanket of beautiful white, I’m trapped by the freezing cold temperatures and the desire to not be caught out somewhere when the flakes finally do begin to fall. Also, Lorelei decided that taking a nap was not for her. Until just now. Right before 4 o’clock. Bed time is going to be super fun tonight.

It hasn’t been all bad. We snuggled together on the couch and watched Despicable Me for the millionth time. Whenever I happened to be sitting on the floor, she would crawl up into my lap and give me a hug. She even let me take a few pictures without trying to grab the camera (too many times).

Lorelei fits perfectly on the TV stand

Hey Mommy! Whatcha doin'?

Playing with Violet (Christmas gift from Aunt Tamara)

Best friends

Conversations in the Children’s Section

It’s no secret that I’m apprehensive about approaching the other mothers at story time. I’m making an attempt, but there are a lot of obstacles to overcome – my lifelong shyness being only one.

The Big Name bookstore that I go to is in a really nice neighborhood (average home price: almost a million). Of course, it’s adjacent to other neighborhoods which are less affluent and I’m sure there are plenty of regular story time attendees like me who don’t spend an average of ten thousand a year on vacations. I’m dead serious, that’s one of the stats I got when I was checking home prices. Holy crap. Anyway, the point I was trying to get at was that a good chunk of the adults are not parents. While I have nothing against striking up a conversation with the 26-year old grad student who is “just the babysitter,” there isn’t much potential for long term connection.

Of course, there is the daughter herself. The crowds at story time have gotten bigger post-Christmas, partly because Miss T is awesome and partly because it’s a frozen wasteland and entertainment options are limited. When there were only a handful of other children – five or six, tops – it was easy for me to keep her calm. Unlike me, Lorelei seems to be really outgoing and when there are so many people it’s as if she needs to say hello to EVERY! SINGLE! PERSON! It’s adorable, I won’t deny it. Unfortunately, when there are so many people to say hello to, it’s harder for me to navigate the kid’s area and keep her from trying to climb up the stage and get into the story time closet or pulling all the Sesame Street books off the shelf (why she gravitates to these, I do not know).

More people also mean more opportunities to steal things from the other kids. As much as I try to stop her from digging into the snack container that isn’t hers or taking a drink from that other baby’s sippy cup, I can’t always catch her in time. When it happens, I die of embarrassment on the inside. I don’t want to come across as one of those mother’s who just smiles like “isn’t my baby adorable” when she does something like that. So far, I’ve never had anyone get upset with me or her when she “steals” something, I’m sure the day will come when the mother is not so understanding. Luckily, Lorelei has a smile that can charm even the most “that’s mine!” kid – it helps that I’m usually prepared with a toy or snack for trade.

To sum (because I think I rambled quite a bit there), vast difference in economic status plus chasing a very active fourteen month old who tends to steal things does not lend itself to having a comfortable conversation with the other parents (when I can differentiate them from the nannies).

Today, in an effort to step out of my comfort zone and stretch myself, I made a point to stay a little longer and chat. I’ve talked Eve* and mother Sadie* before but I also met Dan* and his mom (whose name I unfortunately didn’t catch). Lorelei is the youngest of the three kids but Eve and Dan are only a few months older. It was all superficial, our eyes always on the kids as they colored on each other’s papers or keeping them from running to the other side of the store. Topics didn’t get much deeper than what a pain it was to travel with little ones – all three of us having recently made a trip to Ohio (what are the odds?) – and how none of them seemed to like cow’s milk. We’re all still breastfeeding, so there was a bit of bonding over being the “weird” mothers who still nursed their kids when they were over a year old. Maybe this was the first step.

One more quick story time related story: Lorelei loves Miss T. Loves. She was one of the first people she would wave to with any sort of regularity and without much prompting from me. Today, as she was getting into everything, she spent a good portion of the second book hugging Miss T. Then she would do a funny little shuffle dance back over to me and then go back over for another hug. It killed me. I love my affectionate little girl.

*Names changed

Alone

I’ve said a thousand times, that my perfect job would be a hermit. Turns out, this is an extremely inaccurate statement. For someone who loves being alone as much as I do, I’m really bad at it. Brian had the day off from work today – one of the few national holidays that the university also observes – and, as such, I was given a rare opportunity to do things by myself.

For the most part, I do get to be “alone” even in the presence of the small child. Day-to-day, Lorelei is very independent. She is content to play by herself for big chunks of time while I get things done around the apartment. As long as I’m within five feet of her – or, hell, even within her line of sight – she will happily flip through her favorite books or take blocks in and out (and in and out and in and out) of her storage box. When she doesn’t want to be left alone, she’s good at communicating that to me either with pathetic whimpering or leg grabbing. Even so, I am still a slave to her schedule.

I spent the better part of this morning making my weekly grocery run. On a normal day, I would have to do some intense preparation to avoid potential Lorelei meltdown situations. Grocery lists are mapped out by store, diapers are checked multiple times before departure – in desperate hope for defecation before we leave – and snacks are packed. Today, I spent an hour and hit up three stores. Three. That is almost unheard of when I’m with the baby.

I felt weird. Over the last fourteen months, I have gotten into the habit of narrating everything I’m doing, partly because it’s supposed to help with language development and partly because I could go an entire day without ever opening my mouth otherwise. As I wandered the aisles, I found myself talking (quietly) to myself as I would if Lorelei had been with me. I imagine I looked like a crazy person. What must that group of college students think of me? Was I a frightening picture of what was to come for them? Spoiler Alert: Probably. Despite my usual love of browsing and wandering, I found myself rushing through the process because I really wanted to be back home with my husband and daughter.

Right now*, I’m in the only place where I feel comfortable going solo these days: the local bookstore. I’m ensconced on a comfortable old sofa with an (empty unfortunately – so sad) peppermint hot chocolate. It’s mostly quiet. The owner is chatting with one customer about ghosts and another is browsing the philosophy section near me. There is nothing and no one demanding my attention and I’m enjoying a rare moment of stillness.

I’m looking forward to going home because apparently I’m no longer an alone kind of person.

*This was written around 4 at the bookstore mentioned above when I had no internet access.