Monthly Archives: February 2011

Wordless Weekend

Pictures taken by the husband

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Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks

A few weeks ago, the husband and I went on a real live actual date to Square One Brewery, a local microbrewery and distillery. There was the beer cheese soup, which we both enjoyed, practically licking the bowls clean. I went for a big plate of black beans and grilled polenta topped with tomatoes and avocado and sour cream. While mine was delicious, Brian's meal was the winner: braised lamb shanks. I vowed that I would learn to make them myself.Ingredients3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided1 small yellow onion, diced2 celery stalks, diced3 garlic cloves, minced2 lamb shanks, 3/4 to 1 pound eachMoroccan spice dry rub (see below)1/2 cup dark beer (we used Flying Dog's Road Dog Porter)2 to 3 cups chicken stockbay leafFor the Moroccan Spice Dry Rub1 teaspoon cinnamon1/2 teaspoon cumin1/2 teaspoon coriander1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon white pepperSalt and pepperHeat one tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Saute onion and celery 3 to 4 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and saute for another minute until fragrant (but don't burn it!) and then transfer to a medium slow cooker.Rub the lamb shanks with the dry rub, making sure it's well coated. Heat the last two tablespoons of oil and sear the meat on all sides until it just starts to brown. Transfer to slow cooker.Remove skillet from heat, deglaze the pan with the half cup of beer (drink the rest of the bottle even if it's eight in the morning) and add that to the pot as well. Add the bay leaf and chicken stock until the shanks are just covered in liquid, somewhere between two and three cups. If you have any leftover spice rub, you can add that now. Cook on low for eight hours.

Now, there is the Very Important Question of what to serve with it. One of the advantages of putting this in the slow cooker so early in the morning is that once the lamb is fall off the bone cooked, I can turn it to “Keep Warm” and then focus on the sides.

Brown Rice With Garbanzos and Raisins
Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 1 1/2 cups liquids: 1/2 cup of lamb cooking liquid and 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup garbanzo beans
  • 1 snack size box raisins
  • Salt and pepper

Combine rice, liquids and butter in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 30 to 45 minutes (or until done). When there are about five minutes left add the garbanzos and raisins. Turn off heat, let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork and then season with salt and pepper

Notes

  • If you’re pressed for time, you don’t need to saute the vegetables and sear the lamb, just add everything to the crock pot. I think it adds a depth of flavor if you do those things first.
  • Feel free to cut the vegetables into large chunks instead of dicing them, especially if you aren’t planning on sauteing them.
  • Strain the liquids and freeze the remaining broth to use later.

(More) Weekend Snapshots: Turtle Park

For the rest of this weekend’s pictures, click here.

See that bridge? Yeah, the zoo is just on the other side and our car was just across the street. So, of course, stopping and playing on the sculptures was an excellent idea. Gotta love Turtle Park!

In the Waiting Room

Disclaimer: This might fall under the categories of TMI and CHEESY. If that’s not your thing, come back tomorrow for more cute baby pictures.

I’m carrying my small purse, just enough room for my book, a wallet and my phone. On this day, I’m just Kirsten. There is no diaper bag filled with snacks and toys. No crayons, no baby wipes. On this day, I am not a mommy. I’m wedged into the back corner of the elevator, behind the wheelchair and the guy who almost gave me a concussion with his backpack and the elderly couple wheeling an oxygen tank. I ride it to the top and even though I’m alone for the last few floors, I still stand in the corner, trying to make myself smaller.

The waiting room is empty when I arrive. Still blinking, my eyes adjusting from the bright corridor and sunlight outside, I approach the check-in slowly. I’m seeing someone new. It wasn’t time for an annual check-up and I had only called the day before. My usual doctor wasn’t available. I don’t like change, but I remembered who I was seeing and gave my name to the receptionist. I had to endure the embarrassment of giving my new address – spelling out the street name and repeating my apartment letter three times – and, oh yeah, I have a new phone number, too. I don’t remember if you allow debit cards for co-pays? I mumble, feeling my face get red.

The appointment went fine. We talked about everything that had been bothering me for the last several months. The intense back pain, the abdominal cramps and my seemingly endless exhaustion. Is it possible you’re pregnant, he asked. I tried not to laugh and just said No. Blood work was  ordered and I was off to get it drawn. Six vials of blood. Then, it was downstairs to radiology.

I’ve only gotten two (maybe three) x-rays in my life (not counting the dentist) and I had no idea what to expect. I imagine my face said WHAAAT? when they asked me if I knew where the pants were kept. I was lead back to a huge cabinet filled with paper pants and hospital gowns.  The receptionist surveyed my outfit and told me I would have to wear those voluminous trousers and take off my bra. Did I want to wear a gown or just keep my shirt on? Oh wait, my shirt had buttons so I didn’t get a choice. I was pointed towards the changing room – a small curtained area behind the front desk – and I stripped down to my underwear. The pants were so huge that they bulged out from my hips like clown pants and the gown wouldn’t stay tied in back.

I sat in an uncomfortable flowered chair and surveyed my feet. The only article of clothing – other than my underwear – that was still mine were the battered sandals that I had bought last summer. Staring up at me was a line of nail polish on my left big toe, the last bit of the pedicure I had given myself three months ago that I hadn’t chipped off. I didn’t have long to contemplate what it could mean – perhaps my chipped polish was a sign of how poorly I have been taking care of myself which was why I was spending my Friday morning in doctors’ offices – before the tech came back to get me.

I have arthritis in my lower back on the right side. I will be spending more time in waiting rooms as I begin a course of physical therapy. Everything else came back normal. No wheat allergy and no thyroid issues were the two highlights of my results. This coming Thursday, I will drag myself out of bed at the ass-crack of dawn and get an abdominal ultrasound . I should probably get the nail polish remover out before then.

Weekend Snapshots: St Louis Zoo

The weather the last several days – not so much today, alas – has been gorgeous. Sunday was by far the warmest, the high reaching seventy. Brian has been itching to go all winter and, like everyone else in St Louis (apparently), we figured it was the perfect day for a trip to the zoo. Passing up all the suckers who were waiting in line for the $12 parking – yes TWELVE DOLLARS – we found a spot across from Turtle Park and just a short walk from the south entrance.

Then we were stuck with the decision of which totally awesome – seriously, the St Louis zoo is the best in the country – area we wanted to explore. We settled on River’s Edge since it had hippos – Hippos Go Berserk is easily Lorelei’s favorite book – and baby elephants.

Lorelei is obsessed with “water features,” so anything that starts off with half a dozen waterfalls will mean instant happy baby! She heard the rushing water before we even rounded the corner and she went crazy. She laughed and danced in her stroller, clapping her hands.

First up, South America! There were bush dogs (which I didn’t get any decent pictures of) and the above Capybara. Don’t you love that name. It’s fun to say.

We left the savannah and moved on to the Nile. At first, we thought the hippos were hiding. Turns out, they all just wanted to bunch together in one corner of their habitat (sounds better than enclosure). The excitement was too much for the little one and she just had to get out of the stroller and be on her daddy’s shoulders.

Of course, since we caved and let her out, she absolutely would not be put back in the stroller. Nope. Was not going to happen.Look guys, elephants!

So, we made it all the way to Asia and the baby elephants were out and about. That was about it for our trip through River’s Edge. What to do next?

There are always monkeys apes. Aside: It really annoys me when people – especially parents – call them monkeys. Yes, they are related but apes are NOT monkeys. Get it right, kthxbai.

We rounded out our little zoo-venture with root beer floats (unfortunately not pictured because they were busy being in MAH BELLEH!) and running around in the warm February air near the fountain by the entrance.

Also, Turtle Park. But I’ll save those pictures for another day.

My (Non) Apology to an Asshole

Dear Fellow Coffee Shop Patron,

I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I had the audacity to sit in the only available arm chair. I’m sorry that it happened to be next to you (although it was separated from you by a small table). I’m sorry that I sat quietly by myself, not talking to you or making eye contact or even fucking smiling in your general direction while not bothering you at all. I am a terrible person.

Love,
Me

I had been having a wee bit of a rough day. It wasn’t terrible, just mildly irritating. I injured my wrist last night doing god knows what and I’ve had to endure shooting pains up my left arm to my elbow all day long. Fun times. I don’t usually take a lot of time for myself, so I thought a trip out for something (bad for me) to eat and a hot cocoa would be a nice treat.

I was very, very wrong.

I walked into the corporate coffee brewing establishment and surveyed my surroundings. You wouldn’t think that nine on a Thursday night would be a busy time, but the store was full. A large group of people had commandeered most of the tables (and the other set of armchairs) on the right side of the store. But on the left side, I was relieved to see that both of the red chairs were unclaimed. I would have to sit next to the annoying hipster college kids but that would be okay. There was no one in line ahead of me (this almost never happens) so I ordered quickly and handed over my card. Behind me, the door swung open and in came Surly Asshole. Surly Asshole did not even get in line to order, he went straight over to the chairs and put his stuff in one of them.

(Aside: Isn’t it annoying when someone claims one of the last remaining seats in a busy establishment before even ordering?)

BUT, I realized with relief, Surly Asshole was alone. I could still have a comfortable spot to sit and read for half an hour. (Brian practically kicked me out of the apartment, so I was going to take advantage of my alone time.) I finished paying and set my stuff down on the other chair while I waited for my drink. Thus began one of the most annoying thirty minutes of my life.

Surly Asshole sighed loudly and gave me dirty looks every five seconds (slight exaggeration). He scooted his chair away from mine (not that they were all that close together to begin with).  I was not even looking at him except for out of the corner of my eye whenever he made one of his dramatic sighs and he acted like he was dreading the possibility of us exchanging pleasantries. Here’s a hint: I don’t initiate conversations. I will participate if you speak to me first, but I am perfectly happy sitting alone. And then…THEN…I had the impudence to cross my legs and (horror!) my foot came within a foot of his bag. He grabbed that thing and pulled it close to him like I was going to stick my nasty, germy, feet in his bag. Another hint: I’m not!

That was it for me. I finished my chapter as quickly as I could and gathered up my things to leave. I wish I had sighed and been dramatic about my exit but I’m just not that kind of person.

Look, Surly Asshole, I get it if you want to sit and not be bothered and drink your latte. But dude, if you really don’t want someone sitting next to you: put your bag in the chair. It has the bonus of no one’s feet will accidentally come within a mile of it.

P.S. I know I smelled vaguely of roasted garlic, but you, Surly Asshole, needed a bath. I don’t think my feet were the stankiest things that have been near your bag all day.

P.P.S. Low blow?

The Box

Over the weekend, we discovered that the daughter can now reach the shelf that holds all of Brian’s dorky collectible bobbleheads. It was time to pack them up. It was time to buy a new storage box.

A few days later…

(Don’t worry, it’s empty. Also, it was herbal tea to begin with.)

Snuggling

She is always moving, discovering, exploring every nook and cranny of our small apartment.

One of the cats will amble past and she giggles delightedly. “Tat!’ she says, pointing. She’ll waddle after them, her legs slightly bowed, and stroke their side. She’ll reach her arms out encircling their pudgy tummies and try to lift them. Naturally, she won’t succeed and they will wander away from her, starting the process all over again. Eventually, the cats will escape her reach and hide beneath the sofa (or bed or underneath the kitchen counters).

Once she has exhausted the cats, her concentration will shift to the next adventure. Recently, it has been climbing into the large red colander which lives on the bottom shelf of our pantry. She will pull it onto the kitchen floor and gingerly put one foot into it, assessing. Provided it passes whatever safety test she is conducting, the rest of her will follow that first foot and she will sit inside of it like it’s a throne, queen of the kitchen. If, for some reason, she can’t sit inside it, she will find something else in the kitchen to drag around with her. She will dig out her favorite reusable grocery bag and pretend to go shopping or she will drag around her father’s lunch cooler – provided  he hasn’t taken it to work with him – or even the grease traps from our Foreman grill which she uses on the tile like drumsticks.

Everything is an adventure for her and she would rather be doing something than sitting still or even taking a nap.

Despite my best efforts, I have never been able to nail down a normal nap time routine. One out of every three or four days we’ll have lunch together and then she will nurse for a few minutes and go to sleep for two to three hours. The rest of the time we have a – how shall I put this delicately – diaper issue. She picks nap time to ummm – there is no way for this not to be gross – defecate and, of course, that means she won’t fall asleep for a nap like normal even though she is sleepy. On these days, there is only one solution: snuggles.

Thursday was one of her no-nap days. So, I grabbed a big blanket and set it up on the couch, turned on Despicable Me – she loves those minions! – and settled her against my shoulder. I always make sure she has her stuffed owl to clutch and her binky to suck on. Even if she doesn’t fall asleep, her head with fall heavily against me and a puddle of drool will form on my shirt. On this particular occasion, we were joined by Grace (the fatter one). She jumped onto my legs and sniffed the baby mistrustfully; yet, she lay on my other shoulder and purred happily.

It reminded me of the early days. Lorelei never liked to sleep in her crib or bassinet during the first couple months of her life and she would usually end up snuggled in bed with us. Even though we had put a door up at the foot of the stairs to keep the cats out of our bedroom at night, they spent all night banging against it and keeping us from sleep. Most of the time, we would let them into our room anyway and they would curl up on our feet, keeping us warm in our drafty old house in the dead of the St Louis winter. It was nice having all of our tiny little family piled all together. Nowadays, she moves too much for us to ever really snuggle as a family without risking bodily harm.

I miss the tiny newborn who could curl up on my chest with her feet barely grazing my tummy. But I do love the toddler with her long legs that end up wrapped around my waist. I’ll breath in the scent of her head – a smell which still screams “baby” – and press a feathery kiss to her temple. I know it won’t last forever so I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.

That’s How We Roll

It’s been pretty quiet around here:

Laughing.

I really don't know what's going on here...

Looking for something...

Found it!

Word.

Thankful Tuesday: Because Sometimes I Can’t Wait Until Thursday

Lorelei has been having hour long inconsolable screaming sessions the last couple nights and now she won’t take a nap, I’ve been sick for more than a week (finally on the mend, thank goodness) and Brian is at his test prep class tonight leaving me stuck in the apartment. If there was ever a day when I needed to remember how good I have it, today would be that day.

1. Date night
Saturday evening, for the first time since October and our anniversary, Brian and I went on a date. I dressed up and put on make-up and everything. First we went to the Moolah, aka the greatest movie theater ever, and saw The King’s Speech. I would watch Colin Firth in anything – and I have because yes I’ve seen What a Girl Wants – but it was really, really, really good. Or maybe I just think that because I haven’t seen a movie in the theater since summer of 2009. No, wait, it really was that good. Even though I had a dark chocolate Toblerone and my fair share of the husband’s popcorn, we still went out for dinner. The Scottish Arms, in case you were wondering. My choices were pretty limited unless I wanted to feel really sick the next day (the popcorn was enough to give me a bit of indigestion) so I went for the Bangers ‘n Mash. Mmmmm….sausage and potatoes. That is my kind of meal.

2. Lorelei behaved herself during date night
We left the daughter in the excellent care of the baby whisperer Frank and Meredith. For a little more than four hours, she was separated from both her parents and yet did not have a meltdown. Brian, naturally, spent most of the time being worried that we were going to get a frantic phone call and have to leave but that was not the case. This bodes well for our upcoming date night.

3. Plans for another date night
I think we’re going to do something a little more low key. And by that, I mean either a dinner or a movie but not both. Still, it’s time out just the husband and me (or is it “the husband and I?” I can never remember).

4. Matron of Honor in the HOUSE!
That’s right. My best friend is getting married and I get to wear a pouffy dress. And I am seriously not being sarcastic about the being excited for a pouffy – probably won’t actually be pouffy – dress at all. It’s not until May 2012, though. That is a little sad.

5. Chocolate and Orange Torte
This one. I made it for dessert on Sunday along with some homemade Grand Marnier whipped cream. I might have died. It was that good.

So what is everyone else thankful for this Tuesday?