Archive for March, 2008

Food Friday: The Antidote for Sleep Deprivation

March 28, 2008

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For those of you following along at home, you might recall that I have 3.5-year-old and a 1.5-year-old here. If you do the math and include the pregnancies, the teething, the ear infections, the things that go bump in the night and the internal springs that jolt them out of bed at unspeakably early hours of the morning, you’ll come to the same conclusion that I have today.

I’m tired.

It hasn’t really been so bad all this time. Will didn’t nap much, so he was a pretty good sleeper at night from a very early age. (Through the night, even, for his four-week birthday.) And Henry is his father’s son when it comes to sleep, so he actually can be counted on to nap AND go to sleep at night (early!) with a smile.

But here’s the thing no one ever told me about parenting.

You don’t become well rested just because your former newborn now sleeps through the night.

Even if my children are sleeping, which they do most nights, the precious hours left in the day after they land in bed are hard to sacrifice to sleep. Even when I know I should be sleeping, I’m either up too late or up too early trying to accomplish the things that make me happy, keep me fit, keep us fed, keep our house clean (my husband is laughing at that) or just keep me sane. And while you can keep that up for a while, I think my body, the one that has never needed much sleep, is starting to rebel after the years of sleep deprivation from 2003 to now.

I haven’t figured out the answer to more hours in a day so I can concede a few more of them to sleep. But I have discovered the antidote for a particularly brief night of sleep. It’s simple, but completely effective. It works much better than tea, or coffee or a coke, especially on days when my head aches and too much caffeine would just make me feel jittery and sick to my stomach on top of tired. It’s HOT CHOCOLATE, folks.

This gentle punch of sugar, protein, caffeine and fat works wonders, and has the magic element of chocolate, the thing that can elevate a mood and pysche that you thought was beyond repair, while waking you up and chasing that headache away.

(And yes, I know it is officially spring, but it is cold and rainy here today, and I am thoroughly enjoying my decadent, steamy mug of hot chocolate. And I think I might go to bed early tonight for once. Maybe.)

REAL Hot Chocolate or

Hank & Willie’s Antidote for Sleep Deprivation

2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

4 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process

1 1/2 cup milk, divided (choose your fat percentage. When I’m doing the kind of damage control I need today, I mix Henry’s whole milk with my skim milk.)

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sprinkle of ground cinnamon

Mix sugar, cocoa and 2 tablespoons cold milk in a mug until smooth. Heat the remaining milk in a small saucepan on the stovetop or in a glass measuring cup in the microwave until steaming hot but not boiling. Stir in the cocoa mixture and vanilla.
To froth the hot chocolate without a frother, whirl a whisk in it by rubbing your hands back and forth. Pour it back into the mug and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Sip and recover.
And try to get a good night’s sleep tonight!
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Triple the fun

March 26, 2008

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Introducing, in birth order and birth size,

Alexander (Sandy), Philip and Griffin.

It was a sweet treat to spend a day hanging out with these three little fellas and their mom and grandma. And these perfect gentlemen cooperated perfectly for their photos, fed all at the same time on a schedule,  slept when we wanted them to sleep (mostly), woke up when we wanted them to wake up and didn’t even pee on us. Who said triplets are hard?

(I kid, I kid. I was only there for the daylight hours.)

I haven’t yet made my way through the many, many photos we took, but here are a few of my favorites so far, making their debut here at Hank & Willie. Depending on how you look at it, the boys are six weeks old here or—adjusted for their early arrival—just one week old.

(I’ll post more once mom and dad have seen them all, I don’t want to give away anything they might be using for their announcement!)

So my conclusion after spending a day with triplets? The only thing sweeter than a week-old baby is three of them. Seriously.

Congratulations, A & T, on your beautiful, healthy family!

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Position clearly not endorsed by two out of three triplets.

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Giving us a run for it

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Sandy

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Philip

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Griffin

She makes it look easy

March 24, 2008

Yesterday I took just one frame of Will’s beautiful and cooperative cousin as she lounged in the spring sunshine, and I got this lovely shot.

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Today I find out if newborn TRIPLET boys will be as cooperative.

What do YOU think?

For more Best Shot Monday, click here.

Somehow, I thought I would have one before him

March 19, 2008

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Henry is a chatter. You would think both his parents are brokers (NOT) the way he naturally picks up any phone-shaped object, slaps it to his ear and shouts, like he’s at the bottom of a well, “Hellllllloooooooo!”

He walks around talking animatedly, rapid-fire, on his toy phone, pausing only long enough to switch ears, pace in the other direction and take a SELL order.

Now there will be no living with him: our friend Steven has introduced him to the iPhone.

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So while Will wants a bulldozer for his next “birfday,” I’m pretty sure Henry will be only be satisfied with his own amazing touch-screen device.

2.0, of course.

How to charm me

March 18, 2008

Say, loudly, WHILE I AM HOLDING YOU,

“Mama? Mommeeee? Wheah ah you?”

Then smile and pat my arm, like you were just making sure.

(Henry, 21 months) 

Isn’t he a hottie?

March 17, 2008

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My new camera and I, we’re still in the courting stage. I’m learning all about him and I’m so captivated that I don’t even mind when he leaves its socks on the floor makes me play guessing games about sRGB vs. Adobe RGB color spaces in my settings. We haven’t had a SINGLE fight yet, and we have tons in common. But every so often I realize we are still complete strangers.

Using this camera actually makes me feel like I am driving while looking down at the gearshift. Without ever looking up, since there is so much to keep me busy on the gear shift. Did you know you could make so many adjustments to one photograph? (White balance, color temperature, color space, auto focus mode, picture style, ISO, shutter speed, aperture, did I forget anything? I’m sure.)

So I can’t say I have lots to show you, and what I have today is full of flaws (OOF eyes, blown highlights–I’m sure you could find more if you looked) but I couldn’t let another Monday go by without a Best Shot Monday. So here’s what I’ve got for today, and for more BSM, click here.

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First look at spring, March 12, 2008

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The very patient and lovely (and very out-of-focus) Sydney, 13 months

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And again in B&W

Gotta go, my camera is expecting me. I think he’s got a special date planned for us and I have no idea what I’m going to wear!

Food Friday: Liveblogging Recipe Roulette

March 14, 2008

I have NO idea what we’re having for dinner tonight.

When I’m on my game, I kind of have a rough idea what the week looks like, but this week I’ve been decidedly off my game with a big work crunch, so it has been willy-nilly, who-needs-to-eat-anyway all week long.

I feel like I’ve made most of my regulars recently, and while I have a wall full of cookbooks and a computer bulging with recipes, sometime the option to choose is just TOO MUCH. I kind of just need to pick one and be DONE with it.

Welcome to recipe roulette. I’m going to open the closest cookbook to a random page, and make what is on that page for dinner. Here we go…looks like we’re working from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Specials (More than 275 recipes for soups, stews, salads and extras). I never have all the ingredients I need for one of these recipes, but we’ll see…

Chilled Strawberry Soup

“Hard to imagine anything better on a hot summer’s day than this light, rosy chilled strawberry soup.”

And hard to imagine anything less suited to this grey, damp March day. Let’s try this again.

Broccoli Rabe and Rice Soup

Bleah.

I’m not feeling the Moosewood vibe today. I’m going to try 1,000 Lowfat Recipes (Remember, I like to save my calories and fat for dessert.)

Which brings us to Split Pea and Smoked Turkey Soup.

No. Just…no. I’m all for low fat, but replacing ham with smoked turkey?

This is harder than I thought. I will now limit my search to the entree section and…

BINGO.

Chicken and Apple Curry (from 1,000 Lowfat Recipes by Terry Blonder Golson)

2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup chopped onions

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 to 2 teaspoons curry powder (I like Zanzibar Curry Powder by UK spice company Seasoned Pioneers)

1 cup diced tomatoes (can use canned, I will!)

2 apples, peeled, cored and diced

1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup raisins

2 tablespoons chutney

3 tablespoons lowfat sour cream

1. Heat one teaspoon of the oil in a large nonstick skillet. Cook the chicken until white and in some places brown on all sides, but still pink in the middle. Remove to a plate.

2. Add remaining oil, saute the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until golden. Stir in the garlic, ginger, coriander curry powder and cook until the aromas intensify, about two minutes. Stir in tomatoes and apples. Cook until apples begin to soften.

3. Stir in remaining ingredients except the sour cream. Return the chicken to the skillet, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in the sour cream and serve. Good over rice.

Per serving:

303 calories, 29g protein, fat 5, fiber 4g, sodium 413mg

Now, tell me what the heck YOU’RE having for dinner!

Go someplace else

March 12, 2008

Just for today! Read these other great bloggers and then come back and I promise I will be less busy! and more fun!  really!

Remember Mr. Nice Guy? Who quit blogging for a while, then missed us so much he came back? He came clean with his identity and has a parenting blog at Newsweek.com, I, Breeder. And he is still just as funny. And now with more gestation, as they are expecting Baby Nice Guy #2 in the family.

Speaking of more gestation, Amalah is pregnant with number two! It’s been a long time coming, as fans of Amy’s blog know. Same for Julie at A Little Pregnant, pregnant with number two via a donor egg. Which sounds so crass to just SAY like that, but folks, she has a whole BLOG about it. And other things, too, check her out.

And for lyrical, passionate, beautiful writing, try Kate at Sweet/Salty. Even her funny is just lovely. I can’t do her justice, see for yourself.

And I have to give a shout to a brand-new momma blogger, Katherine at MommaMov. She’s funny, busy busy busy and tells it like it is. Her oldest is 22 months and already has a younger sibling, which makes me swallow hard and grab the nearest table for support, because I can’t imagine Henry having a younger sibling. But then I remember that Will was 22 months when Henry showed up. How, exactly, did we survive that?

And because there is nothing like looking at crafty blogs when you are the farthest thing from crafty, check out the gorgeous quilts (and beautiful babies) at Apple Cyder and the unfathomable knitting at Yarn Harlot. Oh my.

Well anyway, that should give you something to chew on for a day.

See you soon.

P.S.

1. Henry slept through the night.

2. Twice

3. We may keep him.

Oh right, the blog

March 11, 2008

Sorry about that little unintentional hiatus. My to-do list this week, no matter where I keep it, keeps getting longer, not shorter and I haven’t found the Web 2.0 app to fix that yet. Any ideas?

* * *

Dear Henry,

I know you hear me sighing a lot about how you aren’t a little baby any more, and how you are SO CLOSE to being two and won’t it be sad when both my babies are officially not babies anymore.

So maybe you stayed awake and cried from 11:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. just to remind me what it feels like to have newborn in the house?

Thanks, sweetie pie. I’m all set on that memory now.

Love,

Mama

P.S. By the way, you just ended any chance you ever had of getting a little sister. Because, holy crap, I am TIRED today.

P.P.S. Happy 21 months today!

* * *

Oh, and what was that about a new camera? This week has become so busy you don’t even get a preview from the new 30D, you get pictures FROM MY CELL PHONE. Enjoy. And if you’d like to borrow this little guy, say from 11:30 to 2:30 tonight, let me know, I’ll pack him a bag.

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Why go down the slide the conventional way when you can climb up?

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Henry defying gravity or in a free fall, depending how you look at it. (He was FINE, and I was RIGHT THERE. With my camera.)

Complete second child syndrome, I still don’t really let Will climb on this big dangerous ladder at the playground.

Food Friday: King Arthur’s Flour, The Baker’s Store and Shortbread

March 7, 2008

I know it’s been a little thin around here on Food Fridays (ha! not that thin, really) but believe me, if you think the writing about food has been sparse in the last few weeks, you should try eating here. I heart Trader Joe’s Roasted Vegetable Pizzas!

But anyway. Spring is on the verge of springing here, with daffodils in the front yard up now to about four inches, so it is high time that I posted these wintery photos from snowy Vermont and my most recent pilgrimage to The Baker’s Store. Yum.

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Abandon hope (of not eating excessive amounts of baked goods) ye who enter here.
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My partner in crime. He was the one who spilled the scone crumbs on the diaper bag, not me!
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More kinds of flour than you can imagine.

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Something for  absolutely all your cake and cookie decorating needs.

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Mmm, beignets.
Sara, remember eating these at Cafe Dumond in New Orleans?

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If there is a flavoring, oil or extract out there, they have it.

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Part of the Great Wall of Chocolate.

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My favorite. Just used these last weekend to make Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding.
I’m running low, send reinforcements!

So, I would recommend a visit, if you haven’t guessed by now. Excellent coffee and baked goods, too, of course. And since it is Food Friday, you’ll need a recipe, this one courtesy of King Arthur’s own test kitchen. I owe my friend Amy a shortbread recipe, and while this isn’t my Scottish grandmother’s recipe, it is VERY good. Notes below are not my own, but come from the bakers at King Arthur’s.

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Shortbread Gone Wild

Shortbread is a wonderful starting point for all kinds of sweet adventures: top it (nuts, chocolate, jam, cinnamon); flavor it (lemon, chocolate, ginger); or do both (cappuccino with a mocha ganache drizzle, anyone?). Then again, if you’re a “make mine vanilla, please” kind of guy or gal, leave it alone; it can stand on its own in perfect simplicity.

1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups (9 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly grease two round 9″ cake pans; or two 8″ patterned shortbread pans; or a combination of the two.

In a medium-sized bowl, cream together the butter, salt, sugar, and vanilla, then beat in the flour. Divide the dough in half (each half will weigh about 12 ounces), and press it into the prepared pans, smoothing the surface with your fingers. The dough will feel stiff, but just keep pressing on it until you’ve covered the bottom of the pan. Prick the dough with a fork in an attractive pattern. You can use a fork to prick shortbread dough in a random pattern, but it looks nicer pricked with some kind of symmetry.

Bake the shortbread for 35 to 40 minutes, until it’s golden brown around the edges. Remove it from the oven, and loosen the edges with a heat-resistant plastic knife or table knife. Wait 5 minutes, then carefully turn the shortbread, all in one piece, onto a clean work surface.

Using a pizza wheel, baker’s bench knife, or sharp knife, cut each round into 12 wedges. (Do this while the shortbread is still warm; if you wait until it’s cool, it won’t cut easily.) Transfer the shortbread wedges to a rack to cool. Once shortbread is cool, go wild!

  • Drizzle with melted caramel;
  • Spread with melted chocolate, and sprinkle with nuts;
  • Set aside two shortbread cookies, and spread the remainder of the cookies with a thick layer of jam or preserves. Crumble the reserved cookies, and sprinkle the crumbs lightly over the jam.

Yield: 2 dozen shortbread wedges.

Baby’s Got Back (up)

March 4, 2008

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I knew I should have backed up all those photos!

You all sure know how to come through on the organizational advice. If this wasn’t my own blog I would bookmark it just based on all the good stuff you came up with for organizing my life and my photos. Now if someone would just come over to cook dinner and fold a few socks, I might actually be able to implement some of these systems. Any takers?

I’m pleased to say that reader Maria has ALREADY ordered her external hard drive based on all your comments, and reader Katy is looking for a suggestion on one to buy. Not like I’m the expert or anything, but I did consult a computer professional when choosing a backup drive, and we have this one, except when I bought it less than a year ago it was half the storage and twice the price or something like that. If your computer is new enough and you spend a little more you can get one with a Firewire connection, but our drive is just USB 2.0 and I find it lightning fast, actually.

Falling asleep yet? No? The next paragraph ought to take care of that.

Western Digital, Lacie and Iomega are all good choices for external drives (Don’t take it from me, check cnet.com and Amazon for reviews), and I’ve heard Maxtor isn’t very reliable—the fact that their drives are about half the price of the brands listed above ought to be your first clue that quality isn’t exactly their middle name. That being said, though, all hard drives CAN fail, so if you really love your pictures and your videos, look into off site storage as well.

And because I am helpful and because I really like SmugMug for off site storing and sharing of pictures and videos, here [rgRZPlbjuLfcc ] is a coupon code for $5 off a new account with them. Plus I get a discount of my own if you use that to sign up. And we all love discounts, don’t we?

Here’s what one of my galleries looks like on SmugMug, if you want to take a look.

Now go, back something up.

I stopped counting at 25,000

March 3, 2008
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William, age 3 1/2
February 2008
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Henry, age 20 months
February 2008
* * *
My name is Anna and I have a confession. I have taken more than 25,000 digital photos since 2004.

That felt good.

Given my recent stab at organizing and the fact that the biggest flaw in my organizing system is what I do with PHOTOS, I am posting this on a Monday in hopes that the Best Shot Monday folks will take pity on me and share their digital photo workflow.

Or if you don’t call it that, share with me What You Do With All Those Darn Pitchers In Yer Camera After You Take ‘Em.

I’m not even sure I can confess what my embarrassing lack of a system is, since it involves PhotoShop, iPhoto, online backup, backup to an external drive and ancillary folders cluttering my desktop like Blog, Blog Resized, Photos to File, More Photos To File, SlideShow 06 and Oh, So That’s Where That Photo Is.

HELP ME.

I CAN tell you the one tool in my system that really works for me is SmugMug. SmugMug is really great for the photo geek types, both amateur and pro, and has AMAZING customer service, easy interfaces and beautiful photo galleries. I highly recommend it. I back all my photos up there, and choose which ones I want to share online, all in one step.

And now that you have a recommendation from me, tell me what you do! What are your steps, particularly if you do any post processing on your images. What percentage of your images do you process? How do you label and store originals and then the processed images? Do you use Lightroom? Have you tried Photo Mechanic? Do you use iPhoto? Do you get prints of your photos or just for the grandparents? Do you allow yourself only a certain number of prints per year or month, or do you print everything? If you are a pro, how do you handle your client images vs. your personal family images?

And, if all those questions above mean nothing to you, I want to hear what you do, too! I envy simplicity, really.

P.S. I got a new camera yesterday, a Canon 30D. I have taken about 26 pictures so far, mostly of the laundry basket and my foot, while I try to figure it out. But I can already tell I am going to LOVE IT.

P.P.S. If all of this is just giving you a headache, just go see some more photos at Best Shot Monday.